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Title: Old Clinkers - A Story of the New York Fire Department
Author: O'Higgins, Harvey J.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Internet Archive)



OLD CLINKERS



[Illustration: _“We can’t fool here,” he cried. “We got to get around
to them gas-tanks”_

See page 114]



  OLD CLINKERS

  A STORY OF THE NEW
  YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT

  BY
  HARVEY J. O’HIGGINS
  AUTHOR OF “THE SMOKE EATERS,” “DON-A-DREAMS,” ETC.

  WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
  MARTIN JUSTICE

  [Illustration]

  BOSTON
  SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
  PUBLISHERS



  COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY
  SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
  (INCORPORATED)



  TO THE FORGOTTEN HEROES
  OF THE F. D. N. Y.



_ILLUSTRATIONS_


                                                                  _Page_

  _“We can’t fool here,” he cried. “We got to get around to
  them gas-tanks” See page 114_                           _Frontispiece_

  _“All right,” he threatened. “I’ll see to you too!”_                18

  _“It’s going to be a heavy call on the treasurer--five o’ yuh--in
  a bunch”_                                                           32

  _Dotted line shows passage of Keighley’s men from forward
  cargo room to shaft tunnel. They finally escaped
  through bunkers amidships beside the boilers and stoke
  holes_                                                              50

  “_I’ll brain any man that tries to open this door before I
  give the word_”                                                     88

  _The scene of the fire on the piers_                               108

  _They had climbed the bunker ladders, and found the port_          124

  _He began to screw out the tortuous scrawl of his report_          158

  “_Over yuh go now!_”                                               188

  _The blaze, caught at close range, seemed to snuff out_            226

  _Keighley turned to his pipe. “I’m responsible for this
  boat”_                                                             264



  “The fire flames up to a reddening sky;
  On God and the firemen the people cry!
  The fire’s put out, and everything’s righted;
  God’s forgot and the firemen slighted.”

                          --_Fireman’s Annual._



OLD CLINKERS



I


The _Sachsen_ was a freighter of the Baltic-American line, plying
between New York and Hamburg; she was tied to her pier in the North
River, receiving cargo, that afternoon, when fire was discovered among
the bales of cotton that were being loaded into her forward hold; and
according to the foreman of her forward-hold gang of freight-handlers,
the fire started in a longshoreman’s clay pipe, smoked, against
orders, while the man was at his work below decks receiving the bales.
According to the officials of the Baltic-American line, the fire was
“a pure case of spontaneous combustion;” and the newspapers of the day
reported it as such. But when New York’s new fire-boat, the _Hudson_,
in answer to the alarm from the pier, came whistling up the river from
her berth near the Battery and turned in under the starboard quarter
of the big _Sachsen_, Captain Keighley of the _Hudson_ looked up to
see a longshoreman scowling down at him over the steamship’s bulwarks;
and the presence of that particular longshoreman was at the moment
as ominous of trouble for old Keighley as it subsequently became
significant to him in considering the origin of the fire.

For the man was an ex-fireman, of the name of Doherty, whom Captain
Keighley had helped to dismiss from the service of the fire-department
one week before. The reasons for his dismissal need not concern us
here. The important point is that he had been a “Jigger-jumper,” as the
members of a certain “benevolent association” of the firemen had been
nicknamed; and Captain Keighley’s crew was full of “Jiggers” who were
eager to avenge their fellow “Jigger” for the loss of his uniform.

Captain Keighley, when he looked up to see Doherty above him, was
standing on the cement roof of the _Hudson’s_ wheelhouse, beside a
monitor nozzle that could drive a hole through a brick wall with a
stream as stiff as a steel bar; and the fact that he stood in this
place of command by virtue of his own cunning, in spite of intrigue in
the fire-department and treachery in his own crew, did not show in the
look that he lifted to his enemy overhead. At most he showed only a
cool reliance on the streams of the _Hudson_ to cope with any mischief
that might be in hand; for the _Hudson_ had a battery of four sets
of duplex pumps that could force out of her pipes as much water in a
minute as twenty shore-engines in a row; and Keighley was eager for a
big fire to test her powers on.

The pilot in the wheelhouse brought her sweeping into the narrow slip
beside the _Sachsen_, riding the ridges of her own swell--her keel
all but naked amidships--and reversed with a suddenness that shook
her to the stack. From the deck of the _Sachsen_ men were bawling
down: “Cotton in the forrud hold! Cotton afire! Cotton afire!” Captain
Keighley struck at the whistle rope and blew for tugboats. “Moore,” he
called to his lieutenant, “get a lighter alongside here and wet down
the cotton I hoist out. Couple up two lines. Get the cotton spray.”

In handling such cotton fires, it is the way of the expert to
extinguish the worst of the flames in the hold and then to hook out
the smoldering bales, hoist them to the open air, lower them to the
deck of a lighter and play the hose on them there until they are
drenched. To that end, Keighley divided his crew into two squads, one
of which he ordered to remain on the _Hudson_, with Lieutenant Moore,
to receive the smoking bales as they came from the _Sachsen_, and the
other he ordered to ascend the high side of the _Sachsen_, on their
scaling ladders with two lines of hose, to attack the flames in the
freighter’s hold. But in picking the men for these separate squads,
Keighley was careful to gather into one of them all the members of his
crew whom he knew to be “Jiggers,” and this squad he himself led up the
scaling ladders to the deck of the _Sachsen_; the other men, who were
not “Jiggers,” he left on the _Hudson_ in charge of Lieutenant Moore,
who was the “financial secretary” of the association and the leader of
the conspiracy against Keighley in the company. By so doing, Keighley
aimed, of course, to keep all the disaffected men under his own eye and
to leave Moore behind with the loyal men where he could do no harm.

Lieutenant Moore understood these tactics and smiled to himself
sourly. There was another man who smiled--but with a more triumphant
expression of malice; and that was the ex-fireman Doherty, who had
been scowling at Captain Keighley over the rail. And Keighley had
not been more than ten minutes in the hold of the _Sachsen_ when
another blaze--independently, unexpectedly, and from no known cause
whatever--burst out among the bales of cotton that were waiting to be
loaded, in the pierhouse, whither Doherty had retreated.

The pierhouse was a wooden structure--though it was covered on the
outside with a corrugated sheet-iron. Its beams were sifted over
with the fine dust of innumerable cargoes; and its whole length was
unprotected by a single hose hydrant or fire extinguisher. The result
was a spread of flames so sudden that before the freight handlers had
ceased running and shouting for buckets, the fire had leaped to the
timbers of the shed and begun to sing there busily; and Doherty, still
smiling to himself, only escaped from the burning end of the wharf by
jumping into the slip.

At first, Lieutenant Moore did not see his opportunity; he remained
stubbornly aboard the _Hudson_ waiting for further orders. But when
the shouts on the burning pier drew him to the deck of the _Sachsen_,
he found that Captain Keighley and his men were still deep in the
_Sachsen’s_ hold with the steamship’s crew; and then he understood,
foresaw, and made ready.

“Damn fine management,” he grumbled, “to go down there and leave a
blaze like this behind him! Get another line up here!”

The men obeyed with alacrity, but by the time they got water through
their hose, they had only a squirt-gun stream to use against the
fire that was developing inside the pierhouse’s corrugated sheet-iron
shell. They could not see the extent of that fire; and Lieutenant
Moore, grumbling and complaining, did not appreciate the fact that in
the flames which began to strike out from the windows of the pierhouse
through the smoke, there was more than the disgrace of Captain Keighley
for blundering in his conduct of the attack.

“Hell of a captain!” he cried. “If it wasn’t for the shore companies
now, this end of the water-front’d get _good_ and singed!”

The sparks began to blow over on the _Sachsen_ from the pier, and Moore
ran back to order up another line of hose from the _Hudson_. He called
to the men on the fire-boat to train a stream from the monitor nozzle,
over the deck of the _Sachsen_, to the roof of the pier building; and
he was promptly obeyed; but the stream was so strong that when it was
raised to clear the bulwarks of the _Sachsen_ it shot over the pier,
and there was nothing to be done but to train it still higher, to let
the water drop on the buildings, sprinkling them instead of tearing
them to pieces. Fire caught the awnings of the _Sachsen_; the firemen
drenched them. A puff of blaze reached her house-work; they fought it
off. Moore ordered here, cursed and complained there, and ran around
futilely; and, at last, realizing with what a fire he was at such close
quarters, he cried out frantically to cast off the hawsers and tow the
_Sachsen_ to midstream.

There was no one left to cast off. The firemen had to get their axes
from the _Hudson_ and chop through the wire ropes. The steel strands
resisted long enough to complete the disaster, and when the last thread
parted under the axeblades, the current still held the _Sachsen_ hard
against the wharf.

A stewardess ran out from the cabins, screaming that the after
house-work was afire.

The whole catastrophe had developed so quickly that the thought
uppermost in Lieutenant Moore’s mind was still his first one of Captain
Keighley’s disgrace; and when he lost his head and began to shout at
the men--like an officer in the panic of a retreat--it was abuse of
Captain Keighley that he shouted.

“What the hell did he want to go down in the hold for, with a fire
like this up here? He’s a hell of a captain, _he_ is! He’s a hell of a
captain!”

One of the pipemen, (whose name was Farley), without turning his head,
growled under his helmet, “Why didn’t yuh haul her out o’ here long
ago?”

“Why don’t she come out now?” Moore cried. “That’s why I didn’t.
Because she _won’t_! That’s why! Because she _can’t_!”

The tugs, whistling and panting around her, got their lines on the
after bitts and pulled and shouldered and struggled noisily. But by
the time they got her under way, the crew of the _Sachsen_, alarmed
by the screams of the stewardess, were already diving overboard, and
Lieutenant Moore’s men were retiring from a blaze that seemed to spit
back their streams on them in spurts of steam.

Moore ordered Farley to go below decks and warn Captain Keighley and
the squad in the hold. Farley glanced at his fellows; they were all
partisans of the captain; they had been chafing under Moore’s attacks
on him, and they were contemptuous of the lieutenant for the way in
which he had mishandled the pierhouse blaze. Moreover, there were only
four of them to two lines of hose; and the one unnecessary man there,
as they saw the situation, was Moore. Let him go himself.

The lieutenant repeated his orders. Farley sulkily remained where he
was. And--what with “Jiggers” and “Anti-Jiggers,” the influence of the
fire commissioner who was a “Jigger” and the influence of the chief who
was not, the party of Captain Keighley and the followers of Lieutenant
Moore--discipline on the _Hudson_ had come to such a pass that Moore
had no redress against a subordinate who refused to obey his orders.

“All right,” he threatened. “I’ll see to _you_, too!” and turned to run
for the hatch.

The men grinned. The _Hudson_, trying to bring its monitor to bear on
the burning woodwork of the _Sachsen_, shot a terrific stream, roaring
and threshing, close to their heads. Farley said: “That darn fool’ll be
sweepin’ us off here in a minute. We’d better get inside out o’ this
an’ help in _there_.”

They retreated aft for shelter, dragging their hose; and by doing so
they left the forward deck to the flames that were blown over the
_Sachsen_ by a steady breeze.

[Illustration: _“All right,” he threatened. “I’ll see to you, too!”_

See page 18]



II


Meanwhile, Lieutenant Moore had found Captain Keighley and the
“Jiggers,” with their two lines, working busily in the choke of cotton
smoke in the deep hold, playing one pipe on the heart of the fire and
with the other sprinkling the bales around it. And Captain Keighley,
with his helmet awry on his head and a smile of contempt slanting his
mouth, feeling the _Hudson’s_ eight pumps behind him, was playing a
game with that fire, happily. The screeches of the stewardess and the
flight of the ship’s crew had not alarmed him. He was used to the sight
of blind fright; he saw the flames before him confined and beaten
back; and he knew that for any fire that might develop behind him, the
_Hudson_ was a park of cannon drawn up in reserve.

It did not occur to him that the _Hudson_, drawn up under the high side
of the _Sachsen_, was a park of cannon in a hole in the ground.

Lieutenant Moore, explaining in the manner of a man with a grievance,
took a valuable minute to make the situation plain. He made it plainer
than he knew. Keighley narrowed his old eyes and nodded. “Back out,
boys!” he called. “Leave yer lines. We’ll pick ’em up from the deck.”

The men dropped their hose and climbed up the ladders; and as soon as
they had passed the orlop deck it was evident to them that they were
in a trap. Flames were blowing across the hatch above them, as if the
very air had suddenly become inflammable and taken fire from the fierce
heat of the July sun. Captain Keighley led up the ladders until he was
almost at the top--and then dropped down again. There was no escape by
that way.

“We’ll have to go aft between decks,” he said.

An officer of the _Sachsen_, who had remained with the firemen fighting
the fire, replied in broken English that this forward hold was shut off
from the rest of the boat by two bulkheads and a cross-bunker.

Captain Keighley said, “Here! You know yer own boat. Take us out o’
here.”

The German shook his big, blond head, thought a moment, shook it
again, and then made a pass with his hand and nodded.

He dropped down the ladder, and they followed him, choking, back to
the deep hold. He groped his way aft in the smoke to the partition of
steel plates that makes the after wall of the cargo room, and there he
stopped. They heard him beating on the plates with the dull blows of a
fat fist. One of the firemen passed him a belt hatchet. He rang it on
the bulkhead.

There was no answer.

Captain Keighley seized it and rapped like a miner signalling for aid.

The German said resignedly, “T’ey haf gone.”

But they had not gone. There was an answering tap from the other side
of the metal; a bolt squeaked and grated; and then the bulkhead door
swung back on the empty coal bunker and the faint glow of a furnace in
the stoke hole.

Through this narrow opening the firemen crawled into an atmosphere
that was cool by comparison with the one they had been breathing in
the burning cargo room; and they drew long breaths of relief there,
looking around the well of steel at the bottom of which they stood.
The German officer took a little tin lamp--the shape of a miniature
watering pot with a flame in the spout--and held it to give light to
the two stokers, who were screwing the bolts of the door in place
again; and one of the stokers looked back over his shoulder, surprised
at this condescension. The officer said nothing until both doors were
fast. Then he growled at the stokers gutturally--and on the word they
dropped their tools and ran, with the whole party at their heels,
between hot boilers, through dark furnace rooms, between more boilers,
through the doors of other bulkheads, and finally into the grated
galleries of the engine room, where they found two engineers still
standing before their levers, waiting for further orders from the
bridge.

Captain Keighley, thus far, had moved with a certain swift calmness,
speaking in a low voice, and using his eyes, as he used his hands,
deliberately, without any darting glances or quick turns. But when he
looked up the railed ladders that rose from tier to tier of machinery
in the engine room, he heard a sound above him that he had not
expected; and he started up those ladders at the double quick.

The crackle of the fire grew louder as he climbed. He heard cries and
shouting in the cabins. He smelt scorch again. A puff of heat swirled
down on him in a fierce blast. And when he reached the sliding door
that gave on the deck, the passageway was filled with smoke.

Here the four firemen who had refused to obey Lieutenant Moore and
who were caught in the burning house-work, came running down on their
captain. “It’s no go--that way--Cap’n,” Farley cried.

Keighley grasped the greasy railing of the ladder and slid down on the
“Jiggers” who had been following him up. “Get further aft!” he ordered.

They dropped into the engine room as lightly as they would have dropped
down the sliding poles of their “house,” and they called to the German
officer to show them another stairway further aft. That officer did not
need to be told what they had found above them. He jumped down among
the dynamos, stumbled past the ice engine, dived through the open door
of the shaft tunnel, and swinging himself to the ladder that went up
the inside of a ventilator shaft, he led them up that narrow flue hand
over hand.

They were not half way up it before they met what they had met above
the engine room--a suffocating heat and smother. The firemen heard the
German growling and coughing above them, as big and clumsy as a bear
that is being smoked out of a hollow tree. Captain Keighley caught
up to him and shouted to him go on. He answered nothing that was
intelligible, and tried to back down. Keighley ordered him to hold
fast, and went up over him like a cat.

The others waited, head to heels.

“Can’t make it,” they heard the captain call at last. “Back down, men!
Back down!”

They went down without a word.

“We got to wait here till they get that blaze out,” he said curtly.
“She’s afire up there from end to end. I’ve shut the ventilator cover
to keep out the smoke. We’ll be better down below here till they get
some water on her.”

They were in the shaft tunnel--a corridor of steel plates, seven feet
high, five feet wide, and more than thirty feet long. From end to end
of it, the big shaft that spins the starboard propeller lay shining
like a steel python, stretched and bound in its bearings. At one end
was the wall through which the shaft passed to the after peak and the
screw; at the other was the entrance from the engine room, already blue
with smoke; above them was the throat of the closed ventilator. They
were in a metal vault, far below the surface of the river, with every
avenue of escape cut off by the fire above them.

Captain Keighley leaned back against the shaft and took off his helmet.

The men stood waiting. They had depended on him to show them the way
out of the danger into which he had led them. One of the “Jiggers”--it
was “Shine” Conlin--demanded, “How are we goin’ to get up?”

“Well,” Keighley rounded on him, “I’m not keepin’ yuh, am I? Get up
any way yuh like!”



III


The words were given like a challenge--a challenge to one of those
trials of authority in which the trained leader, turning on his
rebellious followers, seems to use the hand of chance and circumstance
to whip them into line--a challenge that struck the men before him with
a little start of surprise that passed over the group like a shudder.

They stared at him. Some of them were pale, with lips parted. One of
the captain’s own faction had an odd expression of hurt amazement and
reproach. Another was frowning.

“Shine” said angrily, “_You_ brought us down here. Why the hell don’t
yuh take us up?”

The captain smiled. He was clean-shaven, lean-cheeked, thin-lipped; and
his smile was not sweet--for he knew that he had been beaten by the
fire, and he knew that he could have been so beaten only because of the
treachery of his lieutenant and the “Jiggers.”

“Moore,” he said, “take yer gang back to the _Hudson_. It’s goin’ to be
cooler out there.”

The lieutenant blinked at him. It was the first time that Keighley
had openly shown his quiet understanding of the intrigues among the
crew, and the change in his manner was a sufficient menace without the
sarcastic implication of his words. What that implication was, Moore
was trying not to let himself consider. Fires had been to him what
battles are to the general who has political ambitions. That the issue
of any one of them might endanger his career had been possible; that it
might end his life had never seriously occurred to him. And the Adam’s
apple in his throat worked like a feed-pump gone dry as he swallowed
and swallowed that fear.

The men looked at him; and it was evident that he was in no condition
to think for them. They looked at the captain; and Keighley’s hard eyes
were glittering hostilely as they shifted down the line from face to
face.

“I saw yer frien’ Doherty on deck,” he said. “I guess yer benev’lent
association o’ Jigger-jumpers had something to do with this bus’ness,
eh?”

They did not answer.

“Well,” he said, “I hope it’s good fer it. It’s goin’ to be a heavy
call on the treasurer--five o’ yuh--in a bunch.”

“Shine” turned with an oath and ran out to the engine room. The others
broke and followed him. Keighley, alone with his lieutenant, regarded
him grimly.

[Illustration: “_It’s going to be a heavy call on the treasurer--five
o’ yuh--in a bunch_”

See page 32]

The old captain had been a fireman since the days when the Sunday
fights between the volunteer hose companies in Philadelphia had been
the “only mode of public worship on the Sabbath” there. When those
fights had culminated in riot, bloodshed, and the burning of churches,
he had come to New York, and run with the “goose-necks” and defied the
“leather-heads” until the paid brigade was formed and he took service
with it. He had been living among men and politicians ever since; and
to the natural cunning of the north of Ireland “sharp-nose” he had
added a cynical experience that filled him to the full with the sort of
wisdom that comes of such a life. Lieutenant Moore had been so simple
to him that the “boy’s” attempts to supplant him, with the aid of the
Fire Commissioner and the “Jiggers,” had amused him like a game. He
looked at Moore, now, with a bitter contempt.

“You youngsters in the department,” he said, “yuh’re great politicians.
But what yuh don’t know about a fire’s enough to keep yuh from tryin’
to do tricks with one--er it ought to be.”

Moore shook his head, dazedly.

“Yuh’re goin’ to get yer fingers burnt now. An’ it serves yuh damn well
right.”

Moore turned away in silence and stumbled out to the engine room.
Captain Keighley, having watched him go, proceeded to examine the
shaft tunnel at his leisure. He found nothing but a ball of cotton
waste, which he stuffed into his pocket. Then he leaned back calmly and
waited for his crew to return.

They were in the engine room, standing in the thickening smoke, waiting
for nothing, with the quietness of disgusted despair. Sparks were
beginning to fall down through the gratings. Little splashes of hot
water sprinkled on them from above. They looked up at the reflection of
the flames that were purring overhead, speaking in low voices to one
another; and every now and then a man who had gone forward toward the
stoke holes, or been down on his face crawling below the machinery,
came back to them from a vain attempt to find a safer spot, and made
the gesture of failure. A young German stoker was biting his lips and
whining like a frightened dog.

The last slow pulse of the engines stopped; the electric lights
died out, and the glare of the fire reddened the shining metal of
columns, cylinders and piston rods. No one moved. They watched, as if
fascinated, the approach of a burning horror that seemed to be fighting
its way down to them through the bars of the gratings, snarling.

At last an engineer joined them with a lamp from the stoke hole, and,
after consulting with the German officer, he led them all back to the
dark shaft tunnel. He passed them through, and slid over the steel
door until there was only a narrow aperture left unclosed. He squeezed
himself through that slit, and then with hammer and cold-chisel drove
the door home until the opening was merely a crack wide enough to admit
the finger ends. The men plugged this crack with their coats. He put
his lamp on top of a shaft-bearing.

It showed Captain Keighley still standing there.

“Don’t do that,” he said to one of the firemen who had begun to strip
to the skin. “Yuh’ll want all yuh can get between yuh an’ the metal, as
soon’s that after cargo gets goin’.”

The man grumbled, “We’ll be sittin’ on top of a redhot stove in a
minute.”

Captain Keighley replied, “Yuh can go outside an’ sit _in_ one, if yuh
want to.”

Lieutenant Moore took a quivering breath through dry nostrils and shut
his teeth on the trembling of his jaws. He could hear a low murmur from
the fire that was roaring above decks. The little lamp flared dully on
the bearings. Beyond that, there was nothing but darkness and silence
and the heat that choked.

“Well?” Captain Keighley challenged them.

No one replied.

“I guess yuh got what yuh been workin’ fer, ain’t yuh? Yuh got me into
trouble. Yuh been tryin’ hard enough to push me into a hole ever since
I broke Doherty.”

“Look here, sir,” a fireman named Cripps spoke up. “We’re all in this
together. There’s no use jawin’.”

“That’s right,” another added plaintively.

Captain Keighley nodded. “If yuh’d been all together from the first,
we wouldn’t be here, d’ yuh see?”

Several of the men answered, “Twasn’t our fault.” They looked at the
lieutenant, who had dropped his head and was gazing, empty-eyed, at his
feet.

“No?” Keighley asked suavely. “Well, it wasn’t mine, was it?”

No one spoke again until Cripps asked weakly, “Can yuh get us out, sir?”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes. If yuh live long enough, an’ _I_ do, I’ll get
y’ _all_ out.... I’ll get out ev’ry man o’ yuh that’s breathin’, any
way.... We got to wait here till that fire burns down; that’s all.”

The young stoker had begun to sob. Lieutenant Moore opened his parched
lips to speak, but his tongue, swollen and dry, like a piece of flannel
in his mouth, was too thick to turn a word. The sound of flames rose
suddenly to a muffled grumble.

Captain Keighley said, “Here’s some cotton waste I hunted up. Pull a
wad off to plug yer noses, an’ tie somethin’ over yer mouths. We’ll be
breathin’ scorch before we’re through.”

He tore off a ball of waste and passed the roll to Moore. It travelled
down the line from hand to hand--as if for a sign of union and peace
among them--like a “pax.”

“Now,” he ordered, “get away from the sides o’ that cargo room, an’ lay
yerselves out ’s flat ’s yuh can.”

The majority of the men obeyed him meekly.

“That’s right,” he said. “Stay there now. It’s goin’ to be so hot in
here that some o’ yuh’ll be goin’ off yer heads. Yuh don’t want to do
that. Yuh want to hang on, see? Keep still an’ hang on. An’ if yuh feel
yerself goin’ loose, get a hold o’ the floor, anyway, an’ don’t let go.”

He took up the engineer’s hammer, stepped down to the door, and put
his back against it. “I’ll brain any man that tries to open this door
before I give the word,” he said.

They were a mixed lot--Keighley’s crew--picked from all the battalions
in the city to serve on the new _Hudson_. There was “Shine” Conlin, a
blue-jowled Bowery type, who had been newsboy, boot-black, (whence the
“Shine”) wharf-rat, deck-hand, plug-ugly and leader of his gang; he had
come into the department from the ranks of the “Con Scully Association”
to earn a regular salary for the support of “th’ ol’ crow,” his mother;
and he was the most aggressive “Jigger” in the company. Even now, he
did not obey Keighley’s orders. Instead of lying down, he sat up
against a shaft bearing; and instead of covering his mouth, he filled
it with “fine-cut” from a package in his hip pocket and tried to chew
it nonchalantly. His mouth was so dry that he felt as if he were trying
to chew excelsior; it was tasteless. He turned it over and over in his
jaw, until it was pulverized, like chaff. Then he blew it out, with an
oath.

At his feet lay a huge truck driver named Nicholas Sturton and
nicknamed “The Tur’ble Turk.” He was of the captain’s faction,
because he was by nature loyal to appointed authority and solemnly
conscientious in the fulfilment of all his duties. He had tied the red
rags of a bandana handkerchief over his mouth and plugged his hairy
nostrils with the cotton waste; and his eyes stared and his great
chest heaved in his efforts to breathe through his gag. When he looked
at Keighley, it was with the mute and patient appeal of a big boy, in
pain, looking at the doctor who is watching over his suffering.

Lieutenant Moore, like “Shine,” was sitting, but with his head in his
hands, the cotton waste forgotten in them, his mouth fallen open. He
had had a good education in the public schools; he was cursed with the
imagination of the trained mind; and he suffered all the horrors of
death every time he gasped. He was ready to weep with pity for himself,
but his tears dried up before they reached his scorched eyelids. He was
the pride of his parents, and the dominant note of his self pity was
a sympathy for them in their disappointment in his end. “A hell of a
finish,” he was saying to himself. “Here’s a hell of a finish.”

Cripps, a sly youth, freckled and sandy, had lain down carefully on his
side, in silence, with the instinct of a trapped animal to “lie low”
and wait. He had joined the “Jiggers” because the Fire Commissioner
was of their party and he looked for promotion to come when the old
chief, Borden, should be deposed and his successor named from the
faction which the Commissioner favored. He refused to consider his
present situation as more than a temporary interruption of his plans.
He kept his mind off the thought of death, and busied himself trying to
make his mouth “water” with the thought of cool lager beer in foaming
schooners. He even achieved a secret smile.

The other men lay quiet--some flat on their backs, staring glassily at
the steel beams overhead; some panting with convulsive chests as the
heat increased; some on their faces with their heads on their arms,
gagged and stifling; some drawn up in strained and twisted attitudes,
as if in pain. In their swollen eyeballs sudden lights darted and
burst. Above the noise of the blood in their ears, they heard a sound
of moaning. A choked voice began to struggle in the first wanderings of
delirium.

“Steady, there! Steady!” Captain Keighley called out. He was standing
up, his arms crossed, his face drenched with perspiration--in absolute
and unquestioned command at last.

He was still standing there when the lamp burned low, flickered and
went out.

The darkness was soon unbearable with heat; and Keighley put down his
hammer and began to strip himself to his underclothes and rubber boots.
He could hear the men tearing at their woolen underwear as they ripped
it off. Someone was singing a German ballad in a shrill nasal whine.

Suddenly there was an outbreak of oaths. “Shine” had begun to curse.
Having arrived at an insane notion that Keighley had penned them all
in there, he was promising himself an indescribable revenge if he ever
escaped. He kicked out at Cripps--who had torn the bandage from his
mouth to get more imaginary beer, and was gurgling to himself over
it--and that started a confusion of crazy voices and weak complaints.
A man crawled over Sturton and screamed when “Turk” seized him by
the throat, struggling, with an uproar that set all bedlam loose.
The men began to fight, clutching at one another, rolling about with
feeble blows, writhing like eels baked alive in an oven, like the lost
souls in old pictures of hell. “Shine” leaped on Keighley and went
down under a blow that almost split his forehead. The place was a
pandemonium--awful--indescribable....

Fifteen minutes later the silence of exhaustion had settled down on
hoarse breathings and low groans. And Captain Keighley, sitting with
his back to the door--his knees drawn up, his head resting on them,
nauseated--was struggling against a whirling lapse of consciousness.



IV


The fire on the _Sachsen_ had been discovered when the freight-handlers
returned to work after their midday meal. All that afternoon the boat
burned and drifted; and by nightfall she was beached, on the Jersey
mudflats, with her paint peeled off her sides, her funnels blackened,
her upper works a skeleton of blistered metal, lying, grey and hot,
like a smoking fire-log, and steaming where the streams from the tugs
and fire-boats struck her.

The _Hudson_ had followed her, with Deputy-Chief Moran in charge, the
remnants of Keighley’s crew working desperately to drown out the fire.
They had given up all hope of saving Keighley and the men who were
with him, but they did not give up the appearance or the efforts of
hope, although there had not been a sound or a sight of life on the
_Sachsen_ for eight hours, now, and she was slowly settling with the
tons of water that were being poured into her cargo holds.

“It’s no use,” Moran said, with the coming of darkness--and
relinquished even the pretence of the possibility of a rescue.

He went to shelter himself, behind the _Hudson’s_ wheelhouse, from the
radiated heat of the smoldering hulk, his mind busy with the affairs
of the department. He heard a noise of hammering that seemed to come
from the _Sachsen_, and he thought it was the sound of a pump set going
by some crazy accident of the fire. At a shout from a fireman on the
other side of the _Hudson_, he came out again to the bows wearily.

“I saw a light,” the man cried. “There!”

The spark of a lantern was swinging from side to side on the _Sachsen_
high up, amidships.

They howled, “Hi! Hi! Hullo! All right! All right, boys! Hol’ on!”

“Turn the spray on the deck here,” Moran ordered. “Half speed ahead.
There’s someone alive on her.... Good _God_!”

The heat, as the _Hudson_ crept in, dried their eyes till they were
half blinded by a blur of tears. Seen through these, the light swung
big in the darkness. “Who is it? Who is it?” they called.

A weak hail answered them. The dripping fender of hemp on the nose of
the _Hudson_ touched the side of the _Sachsen_ and steamed on the hot
metal. Erect in the bows, drenched with the spray of the hose, Moran
cried in a voice of suffocation, “Jump!”

[Illustration: _Dotted line shows passage of Keighley’s men from
forward cargo room to shaft tunnel_

_They finally escaped through bunkers amidships beside the boilers and
stoke holes_]

From the coal port above him a naked figure squirmed out, hung kicking
and fell into his arms. Another and another followed--Moran and his
men catching them as they came, and shouting encouragement through the
steam that rose on all sides with the smell of blistered paint. One
man in the struggle at the narrow opening, was thrown into the water
and had to be dragged out with a boat hook. Others fell on their feet,
and, throwing themselves on the deck with hoarse cries, began to roll
around in the spray. Lieutenant Moore came down unconscious, as if
baked stiff, and lay crouched. Captain Keighley, falling beside him,
crawled with his mouth open, to the nozzle of the spray. “All off!” he
gasped. “Start--yer water.... _Water!_”

Moran shouted, “Back off. Full speed. Get these men to the hospital.”

They were madmen. And the squad on the _Hudson_, fighting with them to
prevent them from jumping overboard, had to carry them below to the
engineer’s quarters and wrap them in wet blankets and hold them down.

Not one of them was in a condition to tell how they had escaped.
(Indeed few of them ever succeeded in recalling any more of what had
happened in the shaft tunnel than a convalescent remembers of the
delirium of his fever.) Only Keighley--between the gulps of water that
were doled out to him cautiously--explained that he had come to his
senses sitting with his back against the door of the shaft tunnel,
ankle deep in water, and had realized that they would all be drowned
in the tunnel unless they escaped to some higher level. He had forced
the steel door back and driven or dragged the men out to the engine
room where they climbed to the first tier of gratings, the fire in
this part of the boat having burned itself out first, for want of
fuel. From there, he had found his way through the stokeholes to an
empty coal bunker, where a cooler current of air warned him that there
was probably a coal port open up above him. He had come back for the
others; they had climbed the bunker ladders, and found the port; an
engineer had made the signal with a stoker’s lamp; and the _Hudson_ had
seen it. “Gi’ me a drink,” Keighley ended. “Gi’ me a drink.”

He was the least exhausted of all the crew--although the truth is
that none of them was more than dangerously blistered and temporarily
maddened by pain. They were of the toughness that is characteristic
of their profession--chosen men who got themselves injured by the
hundreds every year, but who succumbed to their injuries so rarely that
the death rate of the department was, at that time, only six men a
year--trained men who had the agility of cats and a cat’s tenacity of
life.

They were taken to their homes or to the hospitals, in ambulances,
“to lay up for repairs.” Captain Keighley refused to do even that.
“I’m all right,” he told the ambulance surgeons. “Put some grease on
me--somethin’ to take the smart out. If I go home lookin’ sick, I’ll
scare the girl to death.” (He was a widower, living with a married
daughter whose husband was a police captain.) “Fix up my hands. That’s
all I need.”

He had been burned about the head and arms chiefly, and they washed
and bandaged him. They put his left arm in a sling--much to his
disgust--and would have bound up his right hand, too, if he had not
refused to allow them. “Let that alone,” he ordered. “I got use for
that.” They warned him that he might have blood poisoning if he did not
protect his burns from the air, “Huh!” he grunted. “Blood poisonin’!
Put somethin’ on it so’s I can get a night’s sleep. That’s all I need.”
And they had to let him have his way.

He went upstairs to his bedroom and lay down in his
underclothes--because it would have been too great an effort to remove
them--and slept the sleep of exhaustion. He was not disturbed; the
_Hudson_ had been reported out of commission and no alarms were rung in.

He slept the sleep of exhaustion, and he wakened next morning to the
noises made by an improvised crew at work cleaning up the fire-boat.
When he had blinked away the first alarming idea that he had overslept,
he sat up painfully and looked at the blisters on his free hand. He
looked at them a long time--as if he saw there the whole story of his
battle with the “Jiggers”--and then he looked up, under his eyebrows,
at the open door and the vacant cots of the crew’s bunkroom, and he
almost smiled. He straightened up slowly, like a rheumatic, as he
stood; and he went about his toilet with a cripple’s patience, his mind
on the “Jiggers” and their discomfiture--considering what they would do
next.



V


When he came down stairs to the “office,” he found Deputy-Chief Moran
waiting to see him, and he received Moran as if nothing unusual had
been happening, despite the fact that his left arm was still in its
support. Moran had a morning newspaper on the desk, spread at a page
that held a portrait of Captain Keighley and an account of the fire on
the _Sachsen_. He greeted Keighley with congratulations, as pugilists
shake hands before they come to blows.

Keighley glanced at the paper, indifferently. “We didn’t stay in the
engine room,” he corrected the account. “We were in the shaft tunnel.”

Moran was full-blooded and dark-haired. His mouth was harsh under a
wiry black mustache that looked as if it had been bitten off at the
teeth. He asked, curtly, “How did you get into that mess?”

Keighley dropped the paper in the waste basket before he replied,
“I didn’t get into it. I got out of it.” He confronted Moran with a
defiant eye. “There was some funny work at the bottom of it. The men in
the tunnel seemed to think it was Moore an’ his gang.”

Moore’s gang, of course, was also Moran’s. And Moran demanded, “Did
they say so?”

“No.”

“Then what do _you_ say so for?”

“Yuh _asked_ me, didn’t yuh?” Keighley replied, unperturbed.

“I asked you for facts!”

“Well, that’s what yuh’re goin’ to get--if yuh want to hear them. Those
men know. _They can tell._ I’m not int’rested--unless someone wants to
make trouble fer me.”

“_Who_ wants to make trouble for you?” Moran blustered.

Keighley replied, with meaning, “That’s what I’m waitin’ to find out.”

The Deputy-Chief had come there intending to hold over Keighley the
threat of an investigation. He found, now, that Keighley had the butt
end of that whip in his hand. He said roughly, “Look here, Keighley,
you might as well understand first as last, the order for Chief
Borden’s retirement’s coming. You know which side your bread’s buttered
on, don’t you?”

Without an instant’s hesitation, Keighley put his hand down flat on
his desk-top and answered, “I stand pat. I don’t owe _youse_ nothin’.
Yuh can do what yuh like, but yuh can’t scare me. See?”

He knew that he was safe for the time, for he had the prestige of
the morning’s newspaper notoriety behind him, and the Commissioner
would not dare to remove him without cause, and any attempt to make
a case against him out of the fire on the _Sachsen_ would prove--in
the language of politics--“a boomerang.” The charges against Chief
Borden had been held proven by the Commissioner, but they had yet to
be defended before a court of appeal under the Civil Service laws.
Public sentiment had been aroused in the chief’s favor by the arbitrary
and insolent conduct of the Commissioner sitting in judgment at the
trial. And Keighley calculated that if the order were issued for the
chief’s retirement, the “Jiggers,” to obtain that order, would have to
fling themselves into a blow that would take, for the moment, all their
strength.

Moran took up his cap from the desk and put it on. “All right,
Keighley,” he said. “We’ll see what we can do for _you_.”

Keighley turned his back to reach his coat that hung on a hook
beside the window. When he looked around, Moran had gone. He resumed
possession of his office with a frowning glance about him, and then
went out to the pier to inspect the work that had been done on the
_Hudson_.

The quarrel in the fire-department was less political than personal;
for, of course, both “Jiggers” and “Anti-Jiggers” were adherents of
Tammany Hall. It was a quarrel between the old chief, Borden, and the
new Fire Commissioner, who was in some degree indebted to the “Jiggers”
for his appointment; they had used their “voice and influence” for him
with “the Boss”; Chief Borden had objected to their doing so, and had
used his position to make life uneasy for their leaders, among whom
was Deputy-Chief Moran. The quarrel had passed down from the officers
to the men; Captain Keighley had undertaken to stop it in his company
by preferring charges against the malcontent Doherty and having him
“broken” by the chief; and this unexpected action had uncovered a whole
conspiracy against him with Lieutenant Moore at its head.

Now, if Chief Borden were retired by order of the Commissioner,
Keighley would be left without a friend in power; Moran would be made
chief; and the full revenge of Keighley’s enemies would fall upon
him. He had no hope of avoiding it. He had no intention of trying to
conciliate it. He was resolved merely to fight--after the manner of
his kind--and to attend to his duties on the _Hudson_ as thoroughly
as possible, meanwhile, so that there might be no valid excuse for
removing him from his command.

It was in this spirit that he received his men as they returned one by
one to their work--and relieved the strangers who had been detailed in
their places while they were in the hospital--and settled down again
to pierhouse routine. “Shine” Conlin was the first to reappear, and
he reported to the captain with a sort of hangdog shamefacedness;
but Keighley--old, cold and silent--showed no sign of remembering the
part the little wharf-rat had played aboard the _Sachsen_, and “Shine”
resumed possession of his locker and his bunk, with the abashed grin
of a guilty schoolboy who is allowed to return to his place in his
class under suspended sentence. Sturton--“The Turr’ble Turk”--came
eagerly, having a clear conscience; and he was a little crestfallen
after his reception; whereas the sly and sandy Cripps accepted the
captain’s manner as a tribute to his own powers of concealment and
winked to himself in secret self-congratulation as he came out of the
office, his eyes on his feet. The loyal Farley looked blank. The others
behaved according to their natures and their degrees of innocence
or guilt. Only Lieutenant Moore--the last to arrive, very pale and
shaken--received any intimation that Keighley had not forgotten what
had occurred; and he received it in the captain’s refusal to allow him
to write the company’s reports, as he had been accustomed.

Life in the pierhouse, between fires, was as dull as imprisonment.
There were brasses to be polished, hose to be dried, and a watch to
be kept on the “jigger”--the little bell that rang in the alarms; but
when the chores for the day had been done, all the rest was idleness.
As long as there were strangers in the company, there was some show of
sociability in the sitting-room, but when the entire crew had returned
to duty, whether they worked or idled, it was in a constrained
silence, with side-mouthed whispers and a suspicious aloofness between
group and group.

There was little said about the fire on the _Sachsen_ even within the
groups. Firemen have no more taste for discussing their day’s work
with one another than any other laborers have; and in this case, there
was an uneasy feeling that the man who said least, now, would have
least to answer for if there were to be an official investigation of
the disaster. As for Keighley, he did not ask himself--or anybody
else--what was going on in the minds of either faction. He did not ask,
from either, anything but obedience; and he got that, now, without
perceptible difficulty. They had evidently acquired some sort of unholy
respect for him; and if they were plotting against him, they were
doing it hypocritically. He was satisfied, if it had not been for the
difficulty of making out the daily reports.

It was as if to make that difficulty greater that the engineer of the
_Hudson_ came to him to complain of the trouble it was to keep the
boat’s low-pressure cylinder warm and ready to start. “I can’t see the
sense o’ puttin’ triple-expansion engines into a fire-boat, any way,”
he reported. “That third cylinder’s just a drag on the other two. She
goes cold here, layin’ in the dock, an’ we’re half way to a fire before
she gets hot enough to handle the steam.”

Keighley replied, “Well, send in yer kick to headquarters”--and avoided
Dady’s eye as he said it; for it was the captain’s duty to make all
such reports.

The engineer looked at him, looked at the floor, and then rubbed
his nose with the back of an oily hand. “I guess _you_ better do
it, cap’n,” he said meekly. “I ain’t much of an ink-slinger.” And
Keighley’s greater sense of dignity compelled him to answer, with an
affected indifference, “All right. All right.”

But when he shut the door of his office and took out his pocket Webster
from the locked drawer in which he kept it--with as much secrecy as if
it were a rhyming dictionary--he sat down before his official letter
paper to nurse his jaw with no more dignity than a schoolboy. He began
to screw out the tortuous scrawl of his report, breathing hard at the
end of every line and muttering curses at the beginning of the next;
and when he decided that he had come to the end of his first sentence,
he put down his pen to relax the muscles of his mouth and wipe his
forehead and swear angrily at Moore for having failed him. The
_Hudson_ cuddling up against the pier, purring a little fume of steam
from the exhaust pipe, was roused from her rest every now and then by
the engineer in charge turning over the engines to get the water out
of the low-pressure cylinder. And in the sitting-room Lieutenant Moore
was tilted back against the wall in a cane chair, reading a newspaper,
looking over his sheet at the closed door of the office with an
expression of sulky resentment, and with the same expression glancing
aside at the men who were reading, loafing and playing dominoes around
him.

There was nothing of the genial atmosphere of an engine house’s leisure
hour about the scene.

“Shine” had confided, in a husky undertone, to the freckled Cripps
beside him, “I s’pose Moore’s sore ’cause we won’t fight it out to a
finish fer ’m. What’d _we_ make by it, supposin’ we got th’ ol’ man
trun out of his job, eh?”

Cripps shut his eyes and nodded solemnly. He was still “lying low.”

At a round table in the center of the room, Farley, of the curled
mustache, was playing dominoes with Sturton, “The Turr’ble Turk;”
and Farley, being an expert, could loll back in his chair and play
absent-mindedly; while Sturton, to whom the game was an almost violent
mental exercise, bent over his dominoes, with his big-boned face set in
a worried scowl, playing deliberately, with slow movements of his hairy
paws.

Farley had been watching Lieutenant Moore. “That loot’nt looks like
a bullpup shut out on a door-step,” he summed it up to Sturton. But
“Turk” merely grunted, without letting his attention be drawn from the
game; and they continued to play in silence--waiting, as the whole
department was waiting, for the retirement of Chief Borden and its
consequences.



VI


They were waiting so, one night, when the next water-front blaze came
to relieve the monotony of their inaction. At the first stroke of
the jigger Keighley laid down his pen and brightened with the hope
that there was a fire in his district to release him from his desk.
Lieutenant Moore dropped his newspaper and looked up to count the
strokes of the bell with an expression of relief. The men straightened
back from their dominoes; and when the little bell started to ring
the third number of a station in their district, they rose with a
smile. With the first stroke of the larger gong, the sitting-room was
empty--Captain Keighley was shouting to the pilot, “All right there!
Pier ----, North River!”--and the _Hudson_ was under way.

They found the river as crowded with a summer evening’s traffic as
Broadway with street-cars and hansoms on a theatre night; and the
_Hudson_ had no shore engine’s right of way under the law. She went
whistling up the stream, dodging and spurting, throbbing, grunting and
checking speed. Blazing excursion boats, bedecked with colored lights,
answered her impatient signals with cheerful impudence and held their
courses. Squat ferries paddled serenely across her path. A tug cut in
ahead of her to race with her for salvage, and worried her like a cur
at a horse’s head. The pilot twirled his wheel, worked his engine room
signals, and swore despairingly. And Captain Keighley, staring at the
shore lights in the distance, revolved the first sentence of his report
in memory, and vainly tried to forget it.

When the river opened into a free stretch of water, the tug fell
behind; and Keighley saw the pier-end lamp--towards which they were
heading--blinking like the intermittent flash of a lighthouse. It
disappeared, and he guessed that it had been blotted out by the drift
of smoke.

“Wind from the south?” he asked. The pilot answered, “Yes’r.” Keighley
said, “Take us in on this side o’ the pier.”

He stepped out of the wheelhouse to go aft to the crew. “Get out two
two-inch lines from the port gates,” he ordered Lieutenant Moore.

“Shine” came running back from the bows and joined the men who were
taking the hose from its metal-sheathed box. “Banana fritters fer
ours,” he said. “It’s the fruit pier!” And Keighley observed that
some of the men laughed, that the others at least smiled, and that
Lieutenant Moore was the only one who remained out of reach of the
invitation to good humor. The captain returned forward again, frowning
thoughtfully.

The pier shed, as they swung in towards it, was fuming at every door
with puffs of a heavy smoke from the burning grasses in which the
fruit was packed; and Keighley saw that the fire was going to be--in
department slang--a “worker.” He could see the “steamers” of two shore
companies drawing water from the end of the slip. He understood that
their crews were in the shed, trying to drive the fire forward; and he
knew that it would be his duty to enter from the other end of the pier
and catch the flames between the two attacks.

He shouted to the pilot, “Hol’ us up to the door there!” He ran back to
Lieutenant Moore. “Stay aboard here,” he ordered. “If the blaze shows
in the roof, take the top off her with the monitor. Go slow, though.
Don’t bring it down onto us.” He called to the men, “Throw out yer
lines! Make fast, now! Hang on to that line aft! Hol’ it! Hol’ it....
All right. Stretch in. In through the door here! Come on!”

He jumped up on the bulwarks as the engines reversed with a frantic
churning astern. And then he saw a flicker of flame glimmer and grow
between the timbers of the cribwork, just above the water line, half
way up the dock.

“Hol’ on!” he cried to the four men who had leaped to the pier. “Drop
one o’ those lines. Take yer axes. Chop a hole in the floor planks
inside. The fire’s ’n underneath.”

The men who were aboard the _Hudson_ tossed the axes out to the others,
and these rushed into the smoke, dragging the single line of hose.
Keighley said to the Lieutenant, “Go in an’ take charge there. See ’at
no one gets lost in that smoke.” Moore scrambled to the pier, and the
captain ran forward along the bulwarks, peering down for an opening
between the stringers of the cribbing.

He knew that the crew on the pier would take at least ten minutes to
cut a hole through the three-inch planks, in the blind suffocation of
that shed; and meanwhile, the fire would travel from end to end of the
pier. He could see no opening larger than an inch slit between the foot
timbers beside the bow of the boat. He started aft again.

“Shine,” behind him, said, “It’s covered at high water, cap.”

Keighley spun around. “What is?”

“The hole. I t’ought--”

Keighley jumped down at him. “Where is it? Will it take a line o’ hose
in?”

“Sure,” “Shine” said. “It’ll take a bunch o’ bananas in.”

“Where is it?”

“It’s--it’s about there.” He pointed down the pier. “It’s ’n under
water at high tide.”

Keighley ran his fingers up the buttons of his rubber coat, and it fell
off him like sleight-of-hand. His helmet dropped beside it. “Get me a
heavin’-line,” he said. And “Shine” gasped excitedly, “Say, cap, _you_
can’t find it. Yuh have to dive. It’s where the ‘club’ ust to hide the
stuff we swiped--till the cop got next t’ it. I c’u’d make it in the
dark. We fixed up a reg’lar joint in there.”

The captain said, “Peel off, then. Hi, there! Bring us a
heavin’-line”--and ran back to get it.

“Shine” dropped to the deck with a chuckle and began a race for “first
in,” gurgling an excited profanity as he kicked off his rubber boots.
Diving on the water-front, on a midsummer night, was a way of earning a
living that appealed to him.

“Beat y’ in, Turk,” he challenged. “Come on. Saturday’s wash-day.”

“Turk” asked cautiously, “What’s on?” He had an instinctive distrust of
“Shine” as a type, as well as an acquired distrust of him as a “Jigger.”

“Nuthin’ ’s on,” “Shine” said as he came out of his blue flannel shirt
and stood up, grinning, naked. “Where’s the rope?”

Farley, from behind, tied one line under his arms. Captain Keighley
gave him the end of another. “That’s fer signalin’,” he explained.
“Jerk it three times if yuh want us to haul y’ out. Jerk it twice if
yuh’re all right an’ ready to take in the house. We’ll tie this other
one to the pipe. Jerk once to start the water. Over yuh go now!...
Strip!” he said to Cripps.

“Shine” sprang upon the bulwarks, took the signaling-line between his
teeth, and dived. He struck the water and went in as clean as a fish. A
few bubbles rose and burst in the streak of light from the wheelhouse
window. The lines paid out smoothly through Keighley’s hand.

They stopped--and he began to gather in the slack, stealthily. They
jerked forward, and ran out with a rush. There was the pause of a
crisis. Then the signal-line jumped twice, and Keighley cried, “He’s
in! Give him the pipe! Light up there!” Cripps tossed the nozzle
overboard, and the others ran aft to lighten up the hose.



VII


“Shine” had wriggled through the opening in the timbers and risen under
the floor of the pier in a dense smoke that was lit with flames. He
had swum to a slimy cross-beam and straddled it to draw a deep breath
through a crack in the cribbing. And now he was hauling in the line,
hand over hand, choking and sputtering. The nozzle rose between his
knees. He jerked once on the signal rope, heard Keighley’s muffled cry
of “Start yer water!” and threw himself on his belly on the nozzle and
the beam. The air gushed in a mighty sough from the pipe. The hose
bucked and kicked up under him. The stream spurted from it and broke,
hissing, on the blaze.

“Go it!” he said, through his teeth, riding the hose and clinging to
the slippery timbers. “Go it yuh son of a mut!”

He had left the weight of discipline on the deck behind him with his
uniform, and he had returned to the naked audacity of the days when
he had obeyed no rules but those of the “club.” He was no longer a
fireman; he was a young hoodlum enjoying an adventure, and he looked up
at the blaze before him with a grin. He heard Lieutenant Moore’s squad
chopping at the planks above him, and he listened contemptuously. He
thought of Captain Keighley, and it was with the admiring thought of a
younger “Shine” for the leader of his gang.

He was still clinging to his beam when Cripps rose blowing behind him,
having followed up the trail of the hose. But the flame and smoke had
already been driven back sufficiently to clear the air; and “Shine”
greeted the freckled “Jigger” with jubilant curses. “Come on here,
Cripsey!” he cried. “We got her beat to a stan’ still. Take a hold
o’ the spout. We’ll slush it around.” And when Cripps swam up beside
him and threw his weight on the pipe, “Shine” shouted in the generous
exultation of the moment, “Listen to Moore up there, tappin’ on them
planks like a footy woodpecker.... Slush her over in the corner
there.... The cap’s too wise fer _him_. He’s too damn hard-headed an
ol’ clinker fer Moore.”

Cripps blinked the water out of his eyes and replied guardedly,
“There’s nuthin’ in it fer us, any how.”

“He’s a better man’n Moore, all right, all right,” “Shine” repeated.
“We’d been all burned to blisters in the bottom o’ that Dutch
cotton-tub if it hadn’t been fer him.”

“Well, that’s where Moore fell down,” Cripps answered at the top of his
voice. “He was scared stiff.”

“The damn ol’ clinker!” “Shine” said-referring to the captain. “That’s
a good name fer him, eh? ‘Ol’ Clinkers,’ eh?” And they were laughing
together in a sort of cowed respect and admiration for Keighley when
they heard him say gruffly, behind them, “Play that stream lower, along
the cribwork. Them timbers is afire outside.”

“Shine” ducked his head, and then looked over his shoulder. The old
man reached an arm to the pipe and growled, “To yer right. To yer
right.”

They applied themselves to their work like a pair of schoolboys caught
idling.

“Good enough,” Keighley said at last. “Keep that stream off me, now.”
And climbing over the beam, he swam forward into the fading glow of the
fire.

“Hully gee!” “Shine” said. “I wonder if he caught on.”

He had “caught on.” He understood that those two men had been the
leaders, under Moore, of the attempt to drive him from the company; and
he understood from their talk that Moore’s followers had deserted him.
He snorted the salt water from his nose; Mister Moore’s claws were cut,
then, sure enough. Well--

At the next cross-beam he saw that the fire was blazing far ahead of
him in a sort of flooring of loose planks; and he could make out what
seemed to be two carpenter’s horses covered with boards for a table,
some boxes for stools, and a pile of burning straw that had been
bedding. He swam back to bring the men, and found Farley and “Turk”
Sturton splashing up with a second line of hose. He ordered them in
with it as impassively as though he were in full uniform on the deck of
the _Hudson_ instead of straddling a sunken beam, the water trickling
into his eyes from his grey hair, dressed in dripping underclothes and
commanding four nude firemen who grinned at one another when he turned
his head.

“Shut off that pipe,” he said to “Shine,” “an’ light up on this other
line.”

He led them--splashing and laughing and tugging on their hose--into the
drip of hot water from the lines of the shore companies above them.
The stream from one of the _Hudson’s_ standpipes, dashing against the
burning timbers outside, blew stinging sheets of spray through the
slits of the cribbing on them. The warm smoke puffed back at them in
stifling clouds. “Turk-ish b-bath,” “Shine” gasped. “Ouch! Gee! That
about parboiled me lef’ lug! Gi’ me air! Gi’ me air!”

[Illustration: “_I’ll brain any man that tries to open this door before
I give the word_”

See page 40]

“Come on!” Keighley ordered.

“Turk” Sturton followed the voice of authority. “Shine” followed the
voice of the man. Cripps obeyed where obedience had been proved the
wiser policy. Farley went to do the work for which he was paid. Their
obedience drew them together like a yoke; they helped one another,
rubbed shoulders facing a common enemy, and touched hands in an almost
friendly sympathy, sharing one task and one danger.

They stopped when the hose would come no farther, and Sturton sent back
the signal for water. “Some Guinny had a roost in there,” Farley said,
peering through his fingers at the flames.

“Shine” replied, “’Tust to be the gang’s club-house. There she goes!”
He shouted, above the noise of the stream, “She ain’t insured, at that!”

Keighley rested his elbows on a beam, rubbed his smarting eyes,
and grunted half-disgustedly. To him “Shine’s” playfulness was the
ingratiating gamboling of a dog that had tried to bite him. He felt no
inclination to pat the treacherous cur; but neither did he purpose to
kick him. To Farley “Shine” seemed to show a spirit of good-fellowship
that let bygones be bygones and reduced their relations to the merely
human intercourse of man and man. To Sturton, absorbed in his duties,
it was the encouragement of a kindred spirit who took the joy of battle
more noisily than he.

The blaze, caught at close range, seemed to snuff out as suddenly as
if it had been no more than the flame of a candle; and when Keighley
looked back over his shoulder in the darkness, he saw the spark of a
belated lantern which Lieutenant Moore was lowering through the hole
that his squad had cut in the floor. “There’s the loot’nt,” “Shine”
sang out impudently. “If he ain’t careful with that lamp he’ll set fire
to somethin’.” And the laugh that followed came heartily from the men.

Keighley made his way back to the lantern and called to Moore to put a
ladder down. “Fire’s out here,” he shouted. “Go in up there an’ help
wet down.”

He waited at the foot of the ladder until he was sure that the last
glimmer of flame had been extinguished below; then, calling to his own
squad to leave their lines and “back out,” he climbed the ladder to the
floor of the pier.

There was no one there to laugh at his ridiculous appearance, except
the wharf watchman, who had returned to the scene of the fire from the
safety of a car-float in a neighboring slip. Keighley strode over to
him. “Got any ripe bananas yuh don’t want?”

“Sure,” the man replied. “Take all youse can ate.”

“Shine” came up the ladder, panting from a race with Sturton. Keighley
touched him on the bare shoulder. “Take a bunch o’ those bananas aboard
with yuh,” he ordered, “an’ be damn quick about it.”



VIII


Twenty minutes later, the last of the fire had been drowned out; the
_Hudson’s_ lines had all been picked up; and the crew sat along the
bulwarks, eating bananas and waiting for the order to start back to
their house. Cripps and Sturton, “Shine” and Farley were perched in
a row along the edge of the engine-room skylight, “in their birthday
clo’s,” each with a banana in his hand and a bulge in his cheek,
fraternizing while they dried.

Sturton was saying, with an air of ownership, “She’s a peach of a
boat, jus’ the same. We c’u’d’ve swamped out that blaze ourselves, if
there hadn’t been a steamer on the island.”

“Shine,” blinking watery-eyed, condemned the fire in resentful
anathemas and bit savagely on the banana. “Damn scorch burned my pipes
so I can’t taste nuthin’,” he complained.

Farley, with the tears still running down his cheeks, swung his heels
blissfully, chewed, and regarded the lights of the city. “It’s hot
work,” he said. “It’s hot work, all right. But how’d yuh like to be
pushin’ a pen in one o’ them little furnaces, fer instance?” He nodded
at the late lights in the upper windows of a distant office building.
“One o’ them newspaper touts was tryin’ to pump me th’other day about
that fire in the cotton. ‘Say,’ he says, ‘what takes you men into the
fire department?’ ‘Oh, the pay,’ I says. ‘The pay.’ ‘Hell!’ he says,
‘the money’s no good to a dead man. Look at Bresnan.’”

“The damn mut!” “Shine” put in. “’T’wasn’t Bresnan’s fault he got
nipped.”

“He didn’t mean it that way,” Cripps said.

“Well, how _did_ he mean it?” “Shine” demanded.

Farley waved his banana skin at the high building. “He meant ’at when
it comes to this sort o’ bus’ness he’d sooner be settin’ up in one o’
them hen-coops peckin’ at an ink bottle an’ scratchin’ at a desk.” He
gave a grotesque imitation of a clerk humped over his work, dipping his
pen frantically, and writing, with his nose to the paper.

Cripps laughed and threw his banana at the pier. “To the woods with
him!” he said. “Gi’me a banana that’s ripe. That last one tasted like a
varnish shop.”

Captain Keighley rose, in his uniform, from the ladder of the engine
room behind them, and caught the general smile. He heard Cripps say,
“This suits me all right.” There were satisfied grunts of assent from
the others. At the stern, Lieutenant Moore sat somewhat apart, spitting
over the rail.

“Get yer clothes on,” Keighley ordered gruffly. “Cast off there, Moore!”

And when the _Hudson_ was spinning back leisurely to her quarters with
a trail of banana skins in her wake, he said to his lieutenant in the
wheel house, “I want yuh to see th’ engineer to-morrah an’ write a
report to headquarters on that low pressure cylinder bus’ness.”

Moore looked up to find the cool grey eyes fixed on him in a
calculation of how much enmity there was left in him. He flushed. “Yes,
sir,” he said, almost gratefully.

Keighley turned away before he added with an effect of kindliness, “All
right. Dady’ll explain about it to yuh to-morrah. Go out an’ tell those
boys we want some bananas in here. I guess we’re smoked as dry as they
are.”

It was not that Keighley felt the impulse of any unguarded generosity.
He knew his fire-department too well for _that_! For there is this
peculiarity in firemen: being free of any business worries or other
anxieties concerning their incomes, they spend their days in efforts
to “get even,” to avenge slights and repay friendships. They are men
of no philosophy, unable to get outside of themselves into any calm
view of their troubles, incapable of forgiving an injury and unable to
understand such a capability in others; and they despise particularly
the “quitter” and the “ingrate.” Keighley did not wish to be sneered
at, by his men, as a “quitter”; and he knew that if Moran did not help
the “Jiggers” in their quarrel with their captain, they would consider
the deputy-chief an “ingrate.” The fight was “to a finish,” whatever
interludes of good-natured fellowship might happen to relieve it.

Keighley knew it. He merely accepted the truce in the spirit of a
“game” antagonist who could fight without malice and win without spite.

He saw the boat berthed, watched the men go off to their beds, and
then turned in himself--relieved to be free of his daily reports--with
a feeling that the truce would last over the next day, at least, which
was Sunday.



IX


In the morning it was announced in the newspapers that Chief Borden
had been suspended, pending the decision of the courts on the charges
against him, and that Moran had been appointed acting-chief in his
place. Keighley opened his eyes wide upon the news, and then narrowed
them cunningly as he considered it. He had expected that Borden would
be thrown out neck and crop as a warning to all the “Anti-Jiggers;” and
there was a glimmer of something hopeful in the half-heartedness of a
tentative suspension. Keighley shut himself in his office with his desk
telephone to find out what had happened.

It did not take him long to learn. One of his political friends in the
upper circle explained that “the Boss” had objected to a fratricidal
war that threatened to disrupt the whole fire department, to sacrifice
public faith in the administration for no political ends, and to weaken
the “organization” by dividing it against itself. The Fire Commissioner
had compromised by suspending Borden instead of “breaking” him.
Keighley listened--and shook his head. “That don’t let _me_ out,” he
said. “It may keep ’em from comin’ after me on Broadway with a club,
but it’ll never keep ’em from stickin’ me in the back some night around
a dark corner.”

He hung up the receiver and scratched the back of his neck doubtfully.
It was his day off duty, but he was reluctant to take it--and leave
the lieutenant in charge. “Moore,” he summoned him, “get that report
done, will yuh? I’ll see to cleanin’ the boat.”

“It’s all right,” Moore replied. “I can do both--if you want to get
away.”

Keighley looked out the window at the humid haze of heat that hung over
the water. “I guess I’ll be as cool here as anywhere,” he said. “Go
ahead with the report.”

       *       *       *       *       *

That Sunday was to be memorable in the records of the Weather Bureau
as the hottest July day in forty years; and it was to be memorable in
the records of the fire department for the most dangerous fire that
had attacked the water front since the department had been formed.
But the fire did not break out till sundown; and fate, while she was
setting a terrific stage for Keighley’s next appearance, allowed him
one of those entre-acts that make the fireman’s life such a thing of
heart-breaking spurts of action and nerve-wracking blanks of peace.

Having given his orders for the day, he withdrew, upstairs, to a
balcony off his bunkroom, where he sat all morning in the shade,
watching the tugs and ferries, steamboats, floats and scows that
bustled and wallowed and staggered past, squealing in a shrill
impatience when they whistled, and puffing short of breath when they
reversed. The water under their bows broke and fell back sluggishly.
The swells in their wakes reeled away with an oily roll. The air was
heavy with the drifting belch of their funnels.

It could not be said that Keighley really thought of anything while
he sat there. It was one of the characteristics of his mind that it
worked best under the conditions of bewildering excitement that make
clear thought impossible to most men. He did not even think about
the “Jiggers;” he merely snoozed, with one eye on that matter, like
a watchdog, until the noonday sun drove him from his balcony. Then
he went sleepily to a neighboring restaurant for his dinner, having
already telephoned that he would not be home.

It was a blistering afternoon, with a sun overhead that struck a
quivering refraction from the dried and warped planks of the wharves,
and a breeze that came hot across the sparkle of the bay where the
glancing facets of small waves shone like a million gleaming little
mirrors. The pierhouse stood at the water’s edge, as bare as a
lighthouse to the beat and reflection of the heat, its row of open
windows gaping in the sunlight like a line of gasping mouths. The men
idled interminably, reading the papers, yawning for an interval and
then reading them all over again. And Keighley dozed at his desk in his
office--like Napoleon before a battle!--waiting for the attack of his
enemy to develop the plan of his counter-assault.

A stiff easterly breeze sprang up at sunset. It came cool from the sea;
and the crew of the _Hudson_ received it as a grateful relief. But
this same breeze--puffing steadily into the smolder of a small fire
that had just broken out in the lumber yard of a furniture factory on
the East River water front--blew the flames back through the stacks
of seasoned boards like a blaze through kindlings; and while the
_Hudson_, in answer to a delayed alarm, was rounding the Battery and
speeding up the river, the flames spread eagerly, in spite of all the
efforts of the shore companies to check them, till, by the time the
_Hudson_ arrived, they covered as much ground as a prairie fire. Under
a volume of dense smoke, they reached and writhed and leaped together,
darting up their heads venomously, waving aloft their flickering
crests, coiling back and striking low. When the wind lifted the pall
that covered their trail, the piles of lumber could be seen burning
like torches. In front of them, every now and then, a feathery stream
rose white in the ruddy glow, spitting impotently into the air as the
firemen, retreating, choked it and dragged it back; and overhead,
continually, the triumphal sparks brightened and soared.

At the first sight of them Keighley’s indolence of mind disappeared
with the quick blink of an alert eye. “Aha!” he said to himself.
“There’s work for Moran.” He shouted to the men, “Get out ev’ry line we
got, boys.”

He laid the _Hudson_ broadside on, at the head of the slip, between two
wharves, under the dark wall of the furniture factory; and he led up
three lines of his largest hose to take the fire in the rear. He left
the boat empty except for the pilot, standing black in the door of the
lighted wheelhouse, and quiet except when Dady, the engineer, came up
from the engine room, looked across the darkness towards the struggle
which he could not see, and called out to the pilot, “How’s she goin’,
Pete?”

The pilot answered several times, indifferently, that she was “going
her own gait all right,” that she was “chasing the boys all round the
lot,” that she had “the bit in her teeth.” But at length he reported
that the wind had fallen. Then, the next time, he said, “She’s puffing
in from the southeast.” And at last he leaned his shoulder against the
door-jamb and replied, “You better get your pumps well greased. The
wind’s come round strong from the south.”

“South!” Dady sniffed the air. “That’ll bring her back this way!”

“That’s what I’m telling you.”

The engineer popped into the hatch like a frightened rabbit into its
burrow; and the silhouette in the doorway raised the shadow of a pair
of night glasses to the black profile of a nose and stood watching.

[Illustration: _The scene of the fire on the piers_]

In a moment, out of the darkness at the head of the slip, two
figures in long rubber coats came striding into the light of the
incandescent lamp at the stern of the _Hudson_ and sprang aboard. They
were Captain Keighley and Acting-Chief Moran; and they came forward
rapidly towards the wheelhouse, Moran waving his arm with an excited
gesture of authority.

“She’s working back over there,” he was saying of the fire. “You’ll
have to hold her, here, at the factory, and keep her from jumping that
street to those gas tanks. If they blow up, it’ll smash half the ward.”

He ran up the ladder to the deck of the wheelhouse. “We can’t get water
to hold her, back there,” he explained. “They’re sucking air from those
plugs already.”

Keighley looked from the fire to the black wall of the factory, from
the factory to the shadow where the street was hidden, and from the
street to the huge gas tanks that seemed to be leaping and falling in
the wavering light of the flames. “We got the water _here_ all right,”
he said. He asked, “How wide is it?”

“It’s--I don’t know,” Moran answered impatiently. “It’s about seventy
feet from the wall to the nearest tank. I can give you two water
towers.”

Keighley looked back over his shoulder. The boat was lying between the
lumber wharf at her stern and the gas company’s coal pier at her bows.
“Fire’s bound to back onto that yard wharf,” he said. “We’ll be between
Hell an’ Purgat’ry here.” He looked up at the factory wall above him.
“That’ll be comin’ down on top of us.” He nodded at the gas tank. “All
right. We can keep her off them.”

Moran ran down the ladder and hurried aft. Keighley followed him.

Suddenly the old captain said, in the voice of a challenge, “I’ll do it
if the crew will.”

Moran asked, “What’s the matter with the crew?”

Keighley answered, “I guess _you_ know as well as I do.”

Moran stepped ashore. “I’m going around the factory,” he said curtly,
and vanished in the darkness.

Keighley stood stroking his sharp nose and smiling under his hand.
Then he coughed a dry chuckle, turned, and ran along the trail of hose
towards the fire.

He considered that he had “put it up” to Moran. It was Moran’s turn,
now, to learn the danger of promoting dissension in the place of
discipline. Here was a fire big enough to break _him_, if it were badly
handled; and he was relying on a disaffected crew and a discredited
captain to handle it for him.

Keighley smiled as he ran; and he ran until the bitter smell of wet
embers, from the burned wood underfoot, was wiped out of his nostrils
by a puff of smoke that came warm and dry on his face. It sobered
him. He slackened his pace to fill his lungs against the stifle,
and proceeded carefully. A few yards farther on, the expected blast
scorched him. When it had passed, he yelled, “Hi, there! Moore, there!”
He got no reply. He broke into a run, stumbled over the hose, and
fell among the burned beams and steaming ashes; and as he sprang to
his feet again, the smoke was cut by a quivering current of heat, and
he saw his crew crouched in a line behind their pipes, fighting in a
wide semi-circle of flames that held back before them but reached out,
roaring, on both flanks. “Back out! Back!” he called. “Yuh’re no good
here. Get back to the boat! We can’t stop her here. Come along with
that two-inch line! Lighten up here, some o’ you men. Chase back an’
shut off, Moore.”

They obeyed him in a suffocated silence, dragging back the smaller
hose. But it was impossible to move the larger lines as long as
they were filled with the weight of water; and the pipemen who were
directing these, blinded by the resinous smoke of yellow pine, remained
bent double before the heat that came licking across them like the
touch of flame.

Keighley ran to them. “Get back an’ uncouple ’em. We’ll never get out
o’ here this way.”

A man at the farthest pipe pitched forward on his face and lay huddled.
His fellows left their nozzle in its pipe-stick, caught him under arms
and knees, and stumbled back with him. Their undirected stream threshed
about like a snake pinned down at the neck; and the fire began to creep
stealthily across the drying debris around it.

A smoking pile of half-burned lumber close at hand flared up in a
sudden flame. Keighley threw himself on the other men, dragged them
from their pipe, and drove them back. “We can’t fool here,” he cried.
“We got to get around to them gas tanks.”

They abandoned, reluctantly, the two nozzles that were caught by
the lugs in the crotches of the pipe-sticks, and retreated with the
smaller line. But, even so, they had to wait until the water had been
shut off before they dared break the couplings to save the hose; and
every minute was an hour long to the impatient Moran waiting for them
to stretch in their lines to protect the threatened gas tanks. He
was fresh to his responsibility, and Keighley’s cool insinuation of
treachery had put him to the edge of a new fear.

When the men got back to the _Hudson_ with the first lengths of hose,
he stormed down on them angrily.

“What’re you doing? Get a move on, will you? What the hell are you
fooling round with that hose for, Keighley? Stretch in over there,
where I told you! Why the devil--”

Keighley, who had his own sense of dignity, set his thin lips in a
tight line and looked back at the factory. “Where’s yer truck comp’ny?”
he growled. “D’ yuh expect eight men to stretch in enough o’ this
boat’s hose to feed two water towers?”

Moran’s voice rose to a hoarse curse: “G-- -- you! don’t you talk back
to me! Do what you’re told. Get a hustle on, or, by--”

Keighley obeyed without more words. “Come along, boys,” he ordered.
“Leave yer lines there.”

They jumped aboard the boat and cast off. The _Hudson_ nosed her way
across the head of the slip until she lay with her bows a few yards
from the coal pier, her side to the foot of the street that separated
the factory from the gas tanks, and her stern in the shadow of the
factory wall. From that position, she would flank the advance of the
fire; her supply lines, laid up the street, would front it; and her
stern pipes, trained on the lumber wharf behind her would check the
flames there. The great danger of the place was this: if the factory
burned, the falling of its walls would crush the boat.

“Come along, now!” Keighley called. “Open up that hose box.”

His men obeyed him eagerly. “Shine” grumbled to Farley, “Moran thinks
he’s the real screw. If he gets yappy, ol’ Clinkers’ll take an’ bite a
piece off ’m.”

Farley, having always been of the captain’s faction, retorted
jealously, “Don’t _you_ worry.”



X


Keighley went forward and climbed to the roof of the wheelhouse. He
stripped the cover from the searchlight, and ordered the current
switched to it from the engine room; and the leakage of light from
the metal hood showed his hard face set in muscular impassiveness,
strong-jawed.

He measured with his eyes the distance from the boat’s side to the
probable position of the water towers. “Two three-an’-a-half-inch
lines, Moore,” he called,--“eight len’ths. Four inch-an’-three-quarter
ones--same len’ths.” Then he swung the searchlight around to the wall
of the factory, and passed the circle of light, like a great hand, up
the windows to the roof.

It showed a brick wall five stories high and apparently a brick and a
half thick. He brought the light back to the window frames and grunted
“Jerry-built!” He pushed up the helmet from his hot forehead and stood
studying.

The fire, doubling back beside its own trail, where the half burned
lumber was tinder to the flames, had wheeled around towards the factory
with such rapidity that the glare of it already lighted the dark
interior of the building. Where that glare went the blaze would soon
be following; for the windows were unshuttered, the window trim was
bare, and the walls were a frail shell filled with all the inflammable
material of a furniture factory. To Keighley’s mind, it would be
impossible to protect such a structure.

He narrowed his eyes and watched Acting-Chief Moran leading up a truck
company to aid in laying the lines from the boat. Farther up the
street, the lights of swinging lanterns marked the massing of other
companies with hose and engines, in the probable path of the fire. He
heard the whistle of the steamers, the bells of the trucks, the immense
murmur of the pumps vibrating like a huge purr in the resounding night,
and the faint rumor of roaring flames and falling timbers as low and
wide as the reverberation of a surf. His nostrils dilated; his frown
cleared. He put his hand on the wheel of the monitor nozzle beside him
and shouted, “Loosen yer lines there, men. Hey, you at the wheel, ring
Dady to jack her back! I want her in under that wall.”

The boat slid back, paying out its lines, until the captain and the
wheelhouse came under the factory wall again. “Hold her!” he cried.
“Start yer water! Look out fer yerselves there men!”

They scattered as he brought the standpipe around like a machine gun,
laid it to train on the upper story of the factory, and spun the valve
wheel. There was a shout of orders from the deck, answered by another
shout from the engine room; and behind a shrill hiss of air and spray,
a solid stream of water, under the mighty pressure of eight pumps,
shot from the quivering nozzle and struck like an exploding shell in a
burst of spray between two upper windows. For an instant that spray hid
the wall there; then it vanished, sucked into a black gap; and, above
the roar of water, glass crashed and bricks thudded; and the stream,
swinging slowly from window to window, tore its way along above the
line of sills. It rose to reach the edge of the roof, and ripped up the
sheathing boards, and stripped the tin, and burst apart the rafters. It
came down again to the windows, and bore in the wall above the floor,
and battered in the bricks below the floor, and cut into the floor
itself and stripped it to the beams.

By the time Moran had fought his way to the pier--through the rush of
a truck company retreating from a fall of bricks--half the wall of
the upper story had been carried away, the section of the roof above
it hung down in a broken wing, and the stream, thrown up to clear the
ruin, shot over the building, singing fiercely.

“Get yer men away from there!” Keighley shouted.

Moran cleared the bulwarks with a running jump and sprang up the ladder
to the wheelhouse top. He clutched Keighley by the breast of his rubber
coat and faced him, white with fury, his lower teeth bared as if he
were going to bite, his eyes like two balls of yellow glass in the
blaze of the searchlight, speechless.

Keighley caught his wrist and growled, “What’s the matter with yuh?”

Moran flung him off and yelled, “What’s the matter with _you_? Why
don’t you do what you’re told, you -- --! Did _I_ tell you to do that?”
He threw out his arm at the wrecked factory.

Keighley shook his head. “No. Yuh hadn’t sense enough to.”

The captain was a tall, big-shouldered build of Irish ruffian, as hard
with age as an old oak. Moran was shorter, stockier, heavier in the
waist. They drew back from each other with a menacing stiffening of
neck and shoulders. Then Moran said, “You’re relieved of your command
here. Report to me to-morrow at headquarters.”

[Illustration: _They had climbed the bunker ladders, and found the port_

See page 52]

Keighley turned to his pipe. “Relieved be damned! I’m responsible fer
this boat, an’ I’ll take her back to her berth.” He threw the stream
down to strike the wall again, and shouted, “If we lay here feedin’
yer water towers till the fire drops the side of a house on us, where
d’ yuh s’pose we’ll be? We got water to smash it in now. We won’t have
it when we’re pumpin’ yer six lines full, will we? There’s time enough
to stretch in after them bricks is down. Look out, there!”

A section of the weakened wall, taken in the middle, broke and dropped
on itself like a curtain. Half the roof collapsed and bore down the
upper floors; and the stream, striking free on the ruin, began to pick
it down, course by course, as Keighley laid the pipe to it.

He did not so much as glance at Moran again. In the excitement of his
work, he appeared to have brushed aside the quarrel from his thoughts
as he would have brushed aside any man who got in his way at such a
time. It was a manner that made all blustering insistence of authority
impossible to Moran. He waited for the opportunity to reassert himself.

“All right!” Keighley shouted, at last. “Shut her off.”

The stream weakened, fell, and ceased. Keighley turned the searchlight
on the street and called, “All right. Now put her back where she was!”
He dropped down the wheelhouse ladder and ran aft as the boat drew up
again at the foot of the street.

Moran stood a moment, the jaw muscle working in his cheek. Then he went
ashore in grim silence.

It was a silence that promised him satisfaction in the morning, when
Keighley should be notified that he was relieved of his command.

“Shine” chuckled as he dragged on his line. “Moran got _his_ dose, I
guess.”

Farley replied, “There’s trouble in it fer th’ ol’ man, though.”

“Shine” retorted, in his turn, “Don’t _you_ worry!”



XI


Ten minutes later the whole street was blotted out in smoke. The
streams roared from the nozzles, and were lost in it. The pipemen, with
heads down and eyes shut, braced themselves against the back-pressure
and fought for breath. The officers, staggering into them, shouldered
them forward, smothering. The whole line throttled in darkness, without
orders, without head, swayed and struggled and stood helpless.

Then, like a stroke of lightning, the flame split the smoke before
them. The air seemed to explode in a blaze of burning gases; the heat
whipped into their faces with a stinging lash; and the whole row of
lumber piles that faced them lighted up together like a long line of
beacons.

Against such a fire the streams were useless. They could beat back the
flame they struck; but as soon as they were moved from the steaming
lumber which they had saved, the heat licked it dry again, and the
flames leaped back to it. Behind the fringe which the pipes could
cover, the whole yard blazed untouched. The windows in the rear of the
factory cracked and broke; the smoke began to pour out through the
wrecked roof; the fire rose from floor to floor as fast as it could
climb; and it climbed unchecked, despite the three streams from the
nearest water tower that fought it.

Moran licked the tail of his mustache and watched nervously. The
largest of the gas tanks towered behind him, in the full current of
heat which rained a steady shower of sparks against it; and when he
glanced back at it his head jerked around with a twitch. He ordered
one of the deck pipes of the water tower turned on the tank to wet it
down; and his voice was hoarse and anxious. Then, when the blaze in
the factory reached the varnish room and flared out with double fury,
he rushed around, concentrating all his streams on the one whirl of
flame. The sides of the tank steamed dry at once. He called out for
another line to be stretched in from the _Hudson_, and his voice came
shaken from a tense throat. He was losing his head. The boat line did
not come. In desperation he started down the street, and was met by
Keighley hastening up at the head of a squad of the boat’s crew.

“For ---- sake, Keighley, hurry up!” he gasped; and his tone was a
confession of weakness that was willing to forgive anything--for the
moment--for the sake of aid.

The line was stretched and coupled as fast as drill. The water spouted
to the tank and drenched it. Moran took off his helmet and wiped his
forehead, trembling in spite of his efforts to control himself.

Keighley came striding back. “That coal pier’s goin’ up if we don’t
keep her wet,” he said. “It’ll be worse than the fact’ry fer the tank
there.”

Moran tried to curse. “The--the whole damn place’s going up,” he
complained feebly.

“The blaze on that lumber pier astern of us’ll scorch us out if we
don’t keep it down,” Keighley continued. “We want a stream on the wall
alongside the boat. Were pretty near pumpin’ our limit as it is.”

Moran shook his head in a dogged helplessness.

“What’re yuh goin’ to do?” Keighley insisted. “We got to do
somethin’--an’ be quick about it. Look-a-here!” He hurried down to the
boat, with Moran at his heels.

The _Hudson_ was lying at the head of the slip, in the angle of two
fires that swept her deck with a burning blast of heat and smoke.
Lieutenant Moore had turned one of the aft standpipes on the blazing
factory and was fighting back the flames in the nearest windows; but
the stream was too weak to be more than a small defiance. He had
started the deck spray on the stern, and the men there were working in
a shower; but it was a tepid shower, and the metal and cement of the
deck were already steaming under it.

The coal wharf at the bow was exposed to all the sparks that blew over
its great wooden hoist and bunkers. And if the fire took that wharf,
the whole defence would be outflanked; the blaze would blow from pier
to pier down the water front; the gas tanks would be caught from the
rear.

“Hi, there!” Keighley shouted. “Turn yer forrud pipes on there an’ keep
that pier wet. Two--four--eight--eleven--Hell! We got to save som’ers.
That won’t do.” He turned to Moran. “What’re yuh goin’ to do about it?
There’s too many streams as it is. They ain’t strong enough.”

But the acting-chief was at the end of his resources. It was his first
big fire, and it was too much for him. He had the bulldog courage
that can take up a position and hold it, fighting, to the last gasp
of ruin; but he had not the quality of mind to stand on the height of
responsibility unbewildered, and direct confusion and overrule defeat.
His face was as blank as his mind; and Keighley saw it.

“Take charge o’ that boat a minute,” the captain said.

Moran took a step towards the _Hudson_; and when he stopped and turned
again, Keighley was off up the street.

The old man had a plan--a plan that was drawn from his experience of
early volunteer days, when streams were too weak to tear up a fire by
the roots, and fire-fighters were always on the defensive, checking an
enemy that could not be successfully attacked.

He ordered the pipe of the nearest water tower to be raised to the
perpendicular, so that the stream from it rose straight in the air and
fell back on itself like a geyser. Then he trained the two deck pipes
of the same tower to cut into the stream with two deflecting ones; and
the three streams, meeting in mid-air, fought together in a spout of
spray that spread in all directions, formed a “water curtain” which no
spark could pass, and was blown by the wind in a wide shower over the
threatened tanks.

“Shut off that other line! Chief’s orders!” he shouted to the men who
were still flailing the tank sides with a solid stream.

“Will that shower be enough, cap’n?” one of the water tower men asked
him.

“Sure,” he said. “Yuh can’t set fire to metal, can yuh? Supposin’ the
heat does swell up yer gas a bit, ain’t those telescope tanks? Yuh
couldn’t explode one o’ them if yuh opened it an’ dropped a match in.
It’d go out. It’s got to have air, ain’t it? She’s safe as long ’s she
don’t warp a leak.”

He ran along through the scorch to the second tower, and watched it
pouring a waste of water on a fire that was already held by the hose
from the engines. “We’re goin’ to cut this tower off,” he called.
“Chief’s orders! Yuh can’t put that blaze out; yuh got to let it burn
out. The other crews can hol’ it. Get back up the street there, where
there’s buildin’s. Stick to it, boys. We got to have this water to keep
her from gettin’ down the piers behind yuh.”

He doubled back to the water front. “Two--three--five,” he muttered.
“That’ll do it.”

The acting-chief ran into him in the smoke. Keighley clutched him by
the elbow. “What’re yuh doin’ here?” the captain cried. “Why ain’t y’
aboard that boat?” And Moran turned and followed him like a lieutenant.



XII


They sprang aboard the _Hudson_ together. Keighley ran to the pipe that
was feeding the second water tower and cut it off at the gate. “Get
this standpipe on the fac’try,” he ordered Moran. “We got the water
now--all yuh want. I’ll look after the pier.”

“Shine” wiped the tears from his eyes and stared open-mouthed. Moran
shouldered past him and swung around the standpipe and turned it on the
blazing windows. Keighley clambered up the ladder to the wheelhouse top
and began to bellow his orders through his hands.

There followed the hottest half hour that the _Hudson_ ever knew.
The coal wharf had taken fire, and the full power of the two monitor
nozzles was needed to subdue it. Meanwhile the belch of heat from the
burning factory, checked only by the lesser streams from the waist
of the boat, swept the deck like the blast from a furnace. The paint
peeled from the smokestack, blistered on the wheelhouse, bubbled on the
rail. The men crouched behind the bulwarks, their eyes smarting, their
throats parched, silent except for a feeble complaint from “Shine” that
they would be “spittin’ black buttons fer a month.” Moran clung to his
standpipe. Lieutenant Moore struggled against the kick of a pipe which
he had turned on the burning pier at the stern of the boat. Keighley’s
voice came to them all, thin and far, “To yer left, Moore. Higher up
there, chief. Stick to it, boys!”

There is, in such men, an ideal of self-subordination as strong as
the instinct of liberty itself. In the face of danger it held them
together, under Keighley, like an oath. “Stick to it!” “Shine” gasped.
“Stick to it an’ roast! Roast! He don’t care! The damn ol’ clinker!”
Farley muttered, “Ol’ hunk o’ slag!” They were filled with a heroic
contempt for him, for themselves, and for their work; and with an
ironical and bitter loyalty they held to their posts. The lieutenant
blinked the spray from his stinging eyes and turned for another look at
the acting-chief beside the standpipe and Keighley commanding on the
wheelhouse. Moran, at every crash of falling floors in the factory,
expected to see the broken wall forced out, and was glad that, by
virtue of Keighley’s foresight, the bricks that might have crushed the
boat were already lying in a harmless pile at the water’s edge.

It was the culmination of Keighley’s triumph--the triumph of the man
who forgets himself in his work, who commands unquestioned because he
orders what must be done of necessity in the situation, who humbles
himself to his duty and is exalted by it.

He had drowned out the flames in the coal wharf; he turned one of his
nozzles on the factory, and poured his tons of water through the broken
wall, and cut off the flames in the windows. The roof had long since
fallen, and now the walls followed it; and the hot bricks, just missing
the stern of the _Hudson_, hissed in the water like a blacksmith’s
irons. For a moment it seemed that the opening of the building only
gave the flames a fiercer draft. They rose sky-high with the roar of a
volcano in eruption. But they fell as suddenly; and, instead of smoke,
it was steam that rose in clouds, and, instead of the busy crackling of
new fuel, the men heard the sizzle of hot coals drowning in the flood
that was pouring in on them.

The final relief came from the shore companies that closed in on
the ruin, fighting their way through the smolder of the yard, and
beating down the dying struggles of the flames with a score of
pipes. To Keighley’s orders, the boat drew off and turned broadside
to the burning lumber pier and fairly swept it from its piles. The
acting-chief left his nozzle and went forward dazedly.

“All right, chief!” Keighley called to him. “We got her beat.”

Moran sat down weakly on the bulwarks and wiped his face. “Gee!” he
said. “I’m done out. Phew!”

He sat there, unnoticed, until the last flicker of the blaze had been
stamped out; then, knowing that the shore companies would be waiting
his orders to return to their houses, he went to Keighley. “All right,
captain,” he said gruffly. “The men ashore can finish this. Let me off
here, and go back to your quarters.”

Keighley nodded. “All right, boys,” he cried. “We’re through. Pick up
an’ get away out o’ here.”

He felt the prompt response of loyalty in the way that every man
hurried to obey him with a will. He observed that Lieutenant Moore
received his orders with an almost obsequious meekness. He heard
laughter from the stern of the boat as it steamed down the river; and
from the looks of the men, as he went around among them inspecting his
scorched paint, he knew that they had watched his quarrel with Moran,
and were proud of him for “winning out.”

When the boat had been tied up, and the men had trooped upstairs to
their bunk room noisily, he sat down at his desk before the open window
and looked out at the first rosy peep of morning over the horizon. His
old eyes relaxed the thoughtful pucker of their wrinkles and filmed
with a pathetic moisture. He blinked; his mouth twitched. He looked
down quickly at his papers, tore a leaf from his daily calendar, rolled
it in a ball, dropped it in the waste-basket--and smiled. When he
looked up again, it was to meet, with a changed face, the beginning of
a new day.



XIII


But when he had slept on it, he was not quite so sanguine, for though
he recognized that he had overcome the active opposition of his crew,
of his lieutenant, and now of the acting-chief, he understood that such
victories could be but temporary. He was standing against the interests
of these men; and by whatever emotions of fear and respect he had held
them back, the emotion would pass and the interest remain. He conceded
to himself that Moore was negligible, that the men were almost so.
(If he exercised even ordinary care, he could protect himself from
whatever small malice there might be among them.) But if Moran and the
Commissioner spared him, it would be with the hope of winning from his
gratitude what they had not been able to force from his fear--namely,
a disposition to aid the progress of the benevolent association of the
“Jiggers” by favoring their members in his crew. And he was determined
to do no such thing.

He turned to the newspaper account of the night’s fire--with the
fireman’s usual excuse to himself that he wished to see how the
reporter had “botched it”--and he read with sarcastic relish a detailed
account of how Moran had used a “water-screen” to save the gas tanks,
and had so headed off a “conflagration” that at one time threatened
to wipe out half the East Side. He did not remember that by shouting
“Chief’s orders!” he had himself given Moran the credit of that move.
He accepted the report as another of those newspaper inaccuracies
which are a tradition among firemen. He flung the paper aside and went
out to start the men at work restoring the _Hudson’s_ blistered paint.

It is the rule of the department, of course, that no fireman shall talk
“for publication;” and the unfortunate “newspaper tout” who reports a
fire has to depend to an impossible extent upon his own eye. It is only
after he has made personal friends of men or officers that he gets any
“inside story” of what has happened, and then only on condition that he
is careful to conceal the name of his informant. And it is not merely
the “authorities” who enforce this rule; the men themselves uphold
it; and the fireman who allows himself to be interviewed suffers the
same sort of treatment from his fellows that a schoolboy gets from
his class when he “tattles” to his teacher. The men carry in their
inside pockets, secretly, newspaper clippings in which they have been
mentioned honorably, but they only show these--ostensibly at least--to
complain that their names have been misspelled. Such is the modesty of
nature!

Now the “newspaper tout” whom Farley had mentioned on the way back
from the fruit wharf fire, had a shrewd suspicion of what was going
on, under the surface of affairs, among the crew of the _Hudson_. His
attempts to “pump” the men, after the burning of the _Sachsen_, had
failed for the obvious reason that the secret to be concealed was a
dangerous one. But, after the fire in the lumber yard, he caught a
friendly fireman off duty, full of an enthusiastic admiration for
Keighley’s work on the gas tanks, and he succeeded in finding out
enough to show him that he was on the trail of a “good story” if he
could only hunt it down.

After some preliminary scouting and scenting about, he came boldly
to Keighley himself. “Captain,” he said--for the captain knew him by
sight--“where did you learn that trick of making a water screen with
three streams of a tower?”

The captain settled down in his swivel chair and replied, “I’m runnin’
a fire-boat. What’re yuh talkin’ about water towers?”

The reporter nodded. “I know. I was at that lumber yard blaze. I saw
you do that trick with the water screen.”

Keighley said, “Say, young fellah, why don’t yuh read the papers?”

“Oh, I know all about that,” the newspaper man replied. “That’s the way
the papers had it. But I saw what happened.”

Keighley rose. “Yuh did, eh? Then what the hell’re yuh botherin’ _me_
about it fer? I got enough to do t’ atten’ to my own bus’ness without
pokin’ any nose into newspaper muddles. _You_ atten’ to yer toutin’ an’
I’ll atten’ to my fires.”

“All right, captain,” the reporter called after him as he went out.
“I’ll get that story yet.”

(And he got it, too. _This_ is it!)



XIV


During that same day, Keighley received various hints, from various
go-betweens, that the men in power were prepared to forgive and forget
if he would take the first opportunity to “make himself solid” and come
into the fold. He “jollied them along,” gave them evasive answers,
or turned stupid and failed to understand what they were proposing.
(The weather aided him, by making activity uncomfortable even for
politicians.) He had the sure hope that the courts would dismiss the
charges against Chief Borden and compel his reinstatement under the
Civil Service laws. He heard rumors that the Fire Commissioner had
had a falling out with “the Boss;” and he expected that with the
autumn there might be changes in the department that would settle the
whole quarrel. Meanwhile, it was his best policy--and his natural
inclination--to stand firm. “I got nuthin’ against the ‘Jiggers,’” he
replied to their emissaries. “I never did anythin’ to ’em. There’s no
trouble here at all.” And if they pressed upon him the advantages of
“getting square up above,” he said, “Well, I’ll think it over. I’ll
think it over.”

He even received with such evasions “Tim” Noonan, the leader of the
“Sixt’”--Noonan of the suave Irish diplomacy--Noonan who had served
with him as a fire laddie in the red-shirt days of the volunteer
fire brigade. Wherever Noonan went, he closed the doors behind him;
Keighley heard him in a silence that was irritating; and Noonan, in the
breathless office, soon arrived at a blood-hot exasperation that kept
boiling up red in his face.

“Well,” Keighley promised placidly, for the fourth time, “I’ll think it
over.”

Noonan plucked from between his teeth the frayed butt of a cigar chewed
to tatters. “Now look a-here,” he said hoarsely, “I’m yer friend I’m
tellin’ yeh, Dan; but I can’t go back with no such answer. An’ _you_
know it. Take it er leave it. There’s promotion in it the one way, an’
there’s trouble th’ other. Are yeh with us, er are yeh not, now?”

Keighley looked out the window and scratched the back of his hand.
“This crew,” he said, “when I took a hold here, it was the makin’
of a mince-pie. An’ it’d ’a’ been the worst mess o’ nuthin’ in the
whole department if I’d run it Jigger er anti-Jigger er anythin’ else
but straight bus’ness to put out fires. I got nuthin’ against the
actin’-chief ner his gang. They ain’t botherin’ me any.”

Noonan had a long, round upper lip that met a round, protruding under
one in a mouth like a rent in a rubber ball. He opened it, and then
shut it again in a politic effort to control his temper, “Dan,” he
said at last, “I like a joke, but I’m no more a damn fool than y’ are
yerself,--mind that now! Yeh’ve been fightin’ half yer comp’ny fer
the month gone, an’ yeh think yeh’ve won. They ain’t botherin’ y’ any
now--no. Yeh think they’ve had enough--an’ mebbe they have. Mebbe they
have. But there’s them that ain’t!” He stopped himself. He plugged
his mouth with his cigar again, and puffed it till it crackled. “Have
sense, now,” he said. “Have sense, man. Here’s yer chance to get the
best that’s goin’. Will yeh take it er leave it?”

Keighley had turned to listen to the tinkle of a telephone bell in the
sitting room where the apparatus of the fire alarm was stationed.

“Will yeh take it er leave it?” Noonan demanded.

Keighley did not answer. He swung around in his swivel chair. Some one
rapped at the door, and he called, “Come!”

Lieutenant Moore looked in to report, “A telephone call from
headquarters. Soap works afire at Nohunk. They want us to keep it off
the coal docks.”

They were the department’s coal docks.

Keighley ordered, “Cast off.” He turned to Noonan. “Better come along
with us,” he said. “It’ll be cooler outside.”

Noonan had found it hot work trying to lead old obstinacy in the
office. The boat looked inviting. There were two chairs under an awning
in the fantail. “All right,” he said, and went sulkily aboard.

Keighley took him to the wheelhouse, instead of to the stern. There
was, of course, a pilot at the wheel; and Noonan waited in impatient
expectation that the captain would give his orders there and then go
aft to finish their conversation. But as soon as the boat was under
way, the men, clearing the decks for action, began to roll up the
awning and carry the chairs below; and Noonan looked at the captain
with the expression of a man who had been tricked.

With his gray side-whiskers and his long lip, he was the sort of
Irishman who would have made an amiable parish priest if circumstances
had not made him a ward leader--the sort of man to whom politics is a
benevolent affair of “gettin’ jobs” for his friends and loyally keeping
them from his enemies. The only dishonesty in public office that he
understood was the dishonesty of treason to the “organization,” and he
despised the political renegade as he would have despised the turncoat
who deserts his church.

Jigger and anti-Jigger were, as has been said so often, merely factions
of the organization, and he could come to Keighley with a charitable
desire to convince the captain that he was standing in his own light.
Keighley and he had been young together. They were old friends, though
they had not met for some time. Yet Keighley received him without
trust, and held him off.

He smoked resentfully; and the head wind, through the open window of
the wheelhouse, blew the cigar ashes in his eyes.

Keighley stood at the pilot’s shoulder, his hands behind him,
pretending that he was watching innocently the course they steered. He
said, at last, “Volunteer firemen up to Nohunk.”

Noonan blinked and grunted.

Keighley glanced at him slyly. After a pause he added, “It’ll remind y’
of ol’ times.”

[Illustration: _He began to screw out the tortuous scrawl of his report_

See page 68]

Noonan understood that Keighley was trying to placate him; and he
was willing to be placated. He was not shrewd enough to see that the
captain was playing on him. He smoked, somewhat mollified.

“Ol’ Dolger,” Keighley said, “the may’r--er whatever he is--he’s got
all the boys with him. They elect him to ev’rythin’ up there.... D’ yuh
remember the Red Crows?”

Noonan made an amicable sound of assent in his throat.

“Dolger’ll remind y’ o’ Nip himself.”

The memory of the past--the past that has always such a poetical appeal
for the Celt--twisted Noonan’s lips in a pleased, reluctant smile. “Nip
was a great boy,” he said. “A great boy!”

The boat was then darting and dodging through the cross traffic of
the lower river. By the time the railroad terminals were passed and
the breeze began to come, less bituminous, from open water, Noonan was
laughing and talking, with his hat on the back of his head and a blur
in his eyes. “D’ yeh mind,” he would say,--“d’ yeh mind the time I put
th’ ash-bar’l over the hydrant, an’ the boys o’ Big Six went by it?
Ho-ho! They near broke ev’ry bone in me body!” Or: “Will y’ ever ferget
the night we run Silver Nine into the ditch at the foot o’ Chatham
Hill?” Or: “Hurley, was it? Well, any way, he put his fist into me
mouth, just as I opened it to yell ‘She’s over!’ an’ I set down in the
road an’ coughed up teeth be the hand’ful.”

Keighley nodded and coughed, puckered his eyes appreciatively, and
cracked his finger joints behind his back. He did not laugh; it was
as hard for Keighley to laugh as it is for most men to sing--when
sober. Besides, he knew enough of Noonan to understand that although
the politician’s joviality was not all assumed--although even the fond
moisture of his eye was not from the eye only--old friendships would
not change present policies, and Noonan did not intend that they should.

When Keighley caught the warm odors of fields and orchards from the
Nohunk shore, he reached mechanically for the pilot’s glasses. “Them
was wild days,” he said, focusing the binoculars.

“We ust to hang together well enough _then_, Dan,” Noonan insinuated.

Keighley studied a mist of light smoke that lay along the water’s edge,
and worked his lips in the twitching of a dryly contemptuous smile.
Then he dropped his cap on the chair beside him--without lowering the
glasses--and with one hand began to loosen his necktie. “Looks like
Dolger’s got his work cut out fer ’m,” he said.

The boat went throbbing through the water at a “fourteen-mile gait.”
There was silence in the wheelhouse.

“Take us in south o’ th’ ol’ pier,” Keighley ordered. He caught the
heel of one boot with the toe of the other, and jerked off the elastic
gaiter; the glasses did not leave his eyes. “If yuh’d like to come in
with us, Tim, I can give y’ a turnout,” he said to Noonan. A fireman
passed under the window. “Bring me me rubbers,” Keighley ordered him,
without looking down. “Yuh’re allowin’ fer the current, are yuh?” he
said to the pilot. Lieutenant Moore came to the doorway. “Get the
starboard lines out,” Keighley directed, without turning. He kicked off
the other gaiter, after loosening it with the toe of his stockinged
foot. “It’ll remind y’ of ol’ times,” he said to Noonan. And his orders
and his remarks were all given in the same absent-minded voice of a man
who has his eyes fixed and his mind busy on another matter.

Noonan laughed admiringly. “That aint the way Nip ust to give his
orders, Dan,” he said.



XV


From that distance, the village of Nohunk was a cluster of yellow
houses that looked as if they had been rolled down the sides of the
Nohunk valley and piled together on the water’s edge. Behind them, a
trail of small cottages marked the path by which they had come from
the hill-top. In front of them lay the soap works and the brewery--as
if their greater bulk had given them greater momentum--with their
foundations awash at high tide, on the far side of an open field at
which the houses had all stopped.

It was this field that had saved the village from the fire; for the
local firemen, massing in the open, had been able to force the flames
back on the water front, following them and confronting them as they
extended down the piers towards the brewery and the coal yards. And
Captain Keighley, putting in at a disused and broken pier, on the flank
of the extending line of fire, planned to drive it back before it
reached the coal wharves, and to hold it back until the shore companies
could drown it out.

To a boat that could lift its hundreds of gallons of water with every
drive of its pumps, the blaze was a bonfire. To a crew of men who knew
that they were beyond the reach of the departmental authorities, the
whole affair was a warm-weather lark. Under a stern spray that kept
them cool, they manned their lines in blue shirts and old trousers, all
of them bareheaded and some of them in their bare feet. Keighley, on
the wheelhouse deck, and Lieutenant Moore, in the fantail, wore helmets
and rubber boots; but Noonan was the only one who put on a waterproof
coat, and he was directing a monitor nozzle, under Keighley’s
instructions, with all the deadly earnestness of an old man at play.

Two standpipes were trained on the pier for which the fire was
reaching, and a third was turned on the nearest coal wharf, to wet it
down. But the brewery was beyond the reach of the stationary nozzles,
being across the road from the foot of the pier at which the _Hudson_
had tied up. And Captain Keighley, peering through the smoke, could
see a squad of volunteer firemen vainly trying to reach the roof of
the brewery with streams that fell short of the third story. He was
ordering a line of hose stretched up the pier to aid them, when a
fat man, red-shirted, in the white helmet of a chief, came puffing
corpulently down the wharf towards the boat, waving a speaking trumpet.

It was Dolger.

He was whiskered like a Boer, and his beard swept the embroidered front
of a yellow plastron that reached to the bulge of his waist. He waved
his hand at them, and yelled breathlessly, “Vill idt cost de county?”

Noonan forgot his duties at the standpipe and came over to ask, “What
is it, Dan? What’s he talkin’ about?”

Keighley shook his head and looked away from the spectacle of an
excited old man making himself ridiculous. Dolger ran to the squad in
the stern, and shouted, “Vat’ll idt cost de county?”

“Shine” answered impudently over his shoulder, “Nuddings, if yuh don’t
charge us fer the water.”

“No, dot’s free,” Dolger panted. “Come along mit idt. I’ll show yah vat
idt is to do.”

The men grinned, and went on with their work of getting their hose out
of its box. “Shine” said, “Dot voss Santa Claus in der red shirt. Vee
gates vos loss mit ’im.”

Dolger threw back his shoulders and blew out his belt like a drum
major. “De cabt’n--vich is he?” he demanded.

Keighley had turned his back to direct the stream which Noonan was
neglecting, and the men, glancing up at the wheelhouse, understood that
their captain intended to leave the resplendent chief to them to deal
with.

Dolger explained majestically, “I am de chief. Diss feuer iss by me.”

They laughed with the contempt of the regular for the volunteer, of the
professional for the amateur. They began to couple up a line of hose,
under the lieutenant’s orders, dragging the lengths out on the pier.

“Stob!” Dolger ordered. “Stob idt so!” he was suddenly calm and
haughty. “I don’ vand yah.” They paid no attention to him. He waved his
hands at them, with the palms out, as if swimming, in a gesture that
was ridiculous. “Go avay back! I don’ vand yah. Nein!”

“Shine” with the nozzle, as he shoved past, said, “Run away, Dutchy!
Nix kommer ous. Go an’ lost yerself!” And Dolger put his trumpet to
his mouth and ran up the pier, shouting indignant German to the men in
the roadway.

Noonan had been watching the incident from the wheelhouse. “What is it,
Dan?” he asked. “What’s he goin’ to do?”

“I guess he’s goin’ to give us what Silver Nine gave the Red Crows,”
Keighley answered, without a smile. “It’ll remind y’ of ol’ times.”

“Aw, quit yer foolin, Dan,” Noonan said anxiously. “What’s he up to?”

“He’s goin’ to bring his gang down here to take charge o’ the boat,”
Keighley assured him. “How’re yer teeth?”

Noonan licked his lips. “No!” he exclaimed.

“That’s right.”

Noonan began to unbutton his rubber coat. He snorted, “Huh!”
bellicosely.

“Here,” Keighley said, “tend to yer nozzle. Don’t let it play in one
place. It’ll knock holes in that wharf, if yuh do.”

Noonan took the directing-wheel again, and began to swing the nozzle
from side to side mechanically, watching over his shoulder for Dolger’s
return. Keighley went down the ladder to take charge of his crew, and
left Noonan alone on the wheelhouse top. And when Dolger’s men appeared
running through the smoke with their chief’s white helmet leading them
like an ikon, it was Noonan who saw them first. He raised a warlike
shout of “Hi, boys, hi! Hooks an’ axes! hooks an’ axes!”

The men looked up curiously at the charge of the redshirts.

Keighley said, “Go on with yer work.”

Noonan screamed, “All aboard! They’re comin’! They’re comin’!” And
then, seeing that the crew would be taken unprepared, he swung around
his nozzle to repel the attack himself.

He had had no experience of the strength of such a stream, and before
Keighley could get back to the wheelhouse to interfere, the water
struck the deck of the old pier almost at the feet of the volunteers,
lifted the loose planks on the rebound, and overwhelmed the company
like a burst of surf. Dolger’s white helmet flew on the crest of
it; the first men, taken in the faces with the sheet of spray, were
thrown back bodily on the others; and when the stream, tearing its way
through the planking, struck a stringer that had already rotted from
its supporting piles, that section of the pier collapsed under the
sprawling weight of the fallen men, and dropped them, with the chief
himself, into the water.

By that time Keighley had reached the nozzle and thrown it up. “Hell,
Tim,” he growled, “do yuh want to drown ’em? Get yer ladders there,
men!” he shouted. “Haul those fullahs out!”

The crew caught up their scaling-ladders and ran to the gap in the pier.

“They w’u’d, w’u’d they!” Noonan fumed. He shook his fist at the
redshirts that had rallied at a safe distance.

Keighley caught him by the shoulders and turned him round. “Take a
joke, Tim!” he said curtly. “Take a joke. These ain’t the days o’
Silver Nine.”

He went down the ladder, and Noonan--with his coat half off and his
helmet pushed back from his forehead--remained to swallow and stare
after Keighley, in the posture of a man who had been egged on to a
fight and then left and laughed at when his blood was up.

He understood that he had been made a fool of. He did not know that he
had done worse than that for Dolger.



XVI


The men whom Dolger had led down to the _Hudson_ had been drawn from
the squad that had been protecting the brewery; and he had taken the
chance of getting them back to the building, with a powerful line of
boat’s hose, in time to recover any ground that the fire might have
gained in their absence. Noonan’s method of receiving them had been a
deadly disarrangement of their plans. It left the brewery undefended;
and it put Keighley’s men at rescue work when they should have been
stretching in their line.

They got a ladder down to Dolger; but he was too weak to do more than
cling to it; and they had to bring a heaving-line from the boat, tie it
under his arms, and hoist him to the pier with the aid of two of his
own men, who buoyed him up in the water and under-propped him as he was
dragged panting up the slant of broken timbers. He had hurt his hip.
He was too weak to walk. He collapsed on the pier in a pool of trickle
from his bedraggled uniform, and the water ran from his forehead in
the fat pouches of his eyes, and he moaned, “Ach Gott! Ach Gott!” in a
beard that dripped with salt water like a bunch of seaweed.

They left him there until they had rescued seven of his men who were
clinging to piles or floating on planks under the pier; and these
gathered about him, one by one, forlornly, wringing the water from
their trousers, taking off their boots to empty them, or vainly trying
to wipe the smart of brine from their eyes with the cuffs of their
shirts. Keighley looked them over sternly. “Don’t you fullahs know no
better’n to run into a stream like that? Do yuh want to get yerselves
killed?”

“We didn’t see it comin’,” one of them protested.

“Comin’?” he said. “It was _you_ that was comin’.”

They muttered and looked back at the hole in the pier.

“Yuh’ll get killed at some o’ these fires, some o’ these days, if yuh
go runnin’ into places full o’ smoke this way, without lookin’ where
yuh’re runnin’. The chief ought to know better. How’re yuh feelin’,
chief?”

Dolger groaned, “De brewery! Stob her!”

“Help him aboard there!” Keighley ordered. “Cast off an’ run her up the
pier further, Moore, an’ get that line in!” The volunteers helped their
limping officer aboard. “Y’ ought to know better,” Keighley grumbled.
“Runnin’ in blind like that! Hurry up there, boys!”

The guilty Noonan had hidden in the wheelhouse. Keighley saw him
watching from the window, and grimly ordered the men to carry Dolger in
there, too. While that was being done, the boat was run up past the gap
in the pier and made fast again; and for the next half hour Keighley
was too busy to think of Noonan or his victim.

The broadside of streams from the _Hudson_ had checked the progress of
the fire down the water front, and a single standpipe was sufficient to
hold it now; but the roof of the brewery was flaming under a rolling
plume of black smoke, and the excitement ashore rose to the confusion
of a panic. Keighley, on the bulwarks, gathered together a herd of
volunteers, and drove them with shouts to drag lines from the hose-box
and stretch them up the pier. They tripped over their own feet,
blundered with their hose-spanners, tried to screw the wrong nozzles on
the lines, turned on the water before their couplings were tight, got
in the way of the trained men, and were bruised and wetted, blinded,
cursed and bewildered, like a crew of clumsy stage supers caught in the
hurry of a “dark change.” When they got their big line laid and the
water turned into it, the force of the stream kicked them back as if
they had been trying to hold a cannon; and it was only by virtue of
the everlasting luck of the beginner that the plunging nozzle did not
thresh the lives out of some of them. Keighley swore disgustedly, and
sat down on the side of the boat.

The brewery was doomed in any case. He watched it burn.

While he was sitting there, the crestfallen Noonan came up behind him,
perspiring remorsefully, and wiping his red face in the crook of his
elbow. “We got th’ ol’ Dutchman into trouble, Dan,” he said.

Keighley snorted his indifference.

“The boys all work in the brew’ry. He says they’ll blame him fer bein’
out o’ jobs.”

Keighley spat. “It’s up to him. It ain’t up to me.”

“His depaty’s been in there, crowin’ over ’m. He’ll be gettin’ elected
to Dolger’s place.... He didn’t try to save the brew’ry. He says Dolger
let the soap works burn a-purpose.... The whole dang thing’s been
botched.”

“Sure it’s been botched,” Keighley said. “What’d yuh expect? They’re
too busy playin’ politics to put out fires.”

Noonan’s mouth shut. He stroked his chin thoughtfully with a thumb and
forefinger, looking down his nose. Then he went back to the wheelhouse
and lit a cigar.

He did not come out again until the boat turned homeward, with the
sun setting smoke-red over the hills of Nohunk. The wreck of Dolger’s
career stretched from the ruins of the soap works to the blackened
shell of the brewery. He had been helped to his home by a squad of
loyal officers; his deputy was wearing his white fire-hat; and, in the
road that had marked his line of battle, the indignant citizens of
Nohunk were planning a revolution in his fire-department.

Noonan watched them sadly from the taffrail. Dolger’s woes lay heavy on
him. Behind him Keighley said:

“Between the boys o’ the soap-works fightin’ the boys o’ the brew’ry,
an’ Chief Dolger scrappin’ with Depaty Hencks, there ain’t much left o’
Nohunk.”

Noonan did not reply.

Keighley took a turn around the deck. When he came back to the stern,
he said: “Them days is past fer us, Tim. We don’t wear red shirts
nowadays. We don’t elect our Chief. We get a day’s pay fer a day’s
work. An’ we got no use fer politics.”

“What d’ yeh mean by that now?” Noonan cried. “Talk straight fer once
in yer life, will yeh?”

“I mean,” Keighley said, “that Jigger ner anti-Jigger makes no
diff’rence to me. If a man does his work, I’ll stan’ by him. An’ if he
don’t, I’ll pound him till he does. That’s the rule aboard this boat,
an’ it al’ys will be.”

“Yeh’re makin’ a mistake,” Noonan warned him, “a big mistake.”

Keighley settled his collar. “Yuh better leave me to run me men in m’
own way. Mind your politics, an’ leave me to me fires. Yuh’re a good
deal of a joke with a pipe yerself, Tim. Yuh’d better leave that to me.”



XVII


Noonan said no more; and when the _Hudson_ had tied up, he went ashore
with a non-committal, “Well, s’long Dan” that expressed nothing but
reserve. Keighley saw him go, and returned, relieved, to the work of
having the _Hudson_ made ready for her next run.

“They’re keepin’ us busy,” he said to Moore.

“They” were. In the space of three days, the boat had done duty at
three fires; and the fire on the _Sachsen_, of the previous week, had
been enough in itself to make the summer one that would be easily
remembered. But now, as if to give the men a taste of both sorts of
life in the department, the days that followed settled down into the
dullest routine of barrack room inactivity. The jigger rang and rang
again, but it never rang any of the lucky numbers that would give the
_Hudson_ exercise. “Nuthin’ but blanks,” “Shine” complained. “This’s
worse ’n playin’ ‘policy.’ Gee, I wish we’d draw a number with a fire
on it.”

The engineer had work to do, fitting a sort of drain to carry off the
water that condensed in the low-pressure cylinder. Keighley was kept
interested by the rumors of bad blood between the Fire Commissioner and
“the Boss”--or the Boss’s creature, the Little Mayor. But the men had
nothing but the shining of brasses and the washing of hose to occupy
their few working moments, and nothing but the exhausted interest of
newspapers and dominoes to pass their long idle hours. They did not
lend any but a languid ear to the reports of the department intrigues,
now that Keighley had fought the “Jiggers” to a standstill. They had
decided to let that matter rest until their superiors took it up again.

And then, one warm morning, when “Shine” and Sturton were sitting on
the deck of the _Hudson_, in the shade of the wheelhouse--eating apples
which they had picked out of the scum of chips and driftwood under the
boat’s quarter--something happened that proved, in its final issue, to
have a vital influence in ending the whole “Jigger” trouble, so far as
the _Hudson_ and its crew were concerned, although the actual incident
itself involved only “Shine.”

He had been complaining of the life they had been leading. “I’m sick
o’ this. Sick o’ the whole rotten bus’ness. Sick o’ doin’ time in this
dang pen, like a convic’.”

The boat was as hot as an ironclad, with her metal fittings and cement
deck; but if “Shine” and Sturton went into the pierhouse with their
fruit, they would have to divide it with the other members of the crew;
and they had elected to endure the heat rather than lose the apples.

“Turk” knuckled the end of his crooked nose, turned over his apple with
deliberation, and crunched off a fresh bite. “Whasmatterith it?” he
asked thickly.

“It’s rotten!” “Shine” growled. “_Rotten!_ That’s what’s the matter
with it. It’s too much scrubbin’ brasses--an’ stan’in’ watches--an’
playin’ footy dominoes--an’ havin’ nuthin’ to do.”

“It’s better ’n truckin’,” Sturton said--remembering the laborious
days he had spent hooking packing-cases and hoisting bales. “It’s the
easiest money _I_ ever made.”

[Illustration: “_Over yuh go now!_”

See page 80]

“Money! What’s the use o’ money when yuh can’t blow ’t in?” It was
the day after pay-day, and “Shine” had his pocket full. “I’d sooner
be deckin’ on three a week.” In the course of his varied career as
boot-black, wharf-rat, Bowery boy and member of the “Con. Scully
Association,” he had once held a “spring line” on a Coney Island
excursion boat. He remembered the cool breeze that had blown in a
porthole of the forward cabin when the deckhands sat playing pedro
there, of an afternoon. He remembered midnights on the Bowery, when
the boat had been tied up to her pier, and he had been free ashore with
his month’s wages in his pocket. “Yuh weren’t chained up to a doghouse
like this, all day an’ night,” he said.

Sturton grunted, unconvinced.

“Shine” chewed and swallowed sullenly, until his little puckered
eyes set in the open stare of a cow revolving its cud. He smiled. He
followed that expression with a scowl and bit into his apple; and,
the memory of strong drink being a thirst in his mouth, the mild
cider-juice of the bruised fruit came as an insipid aggravation to a
longing palate. He flung the apple overboard. “If it wasn’t fer th’ ol’
woman,” he said, “I’d chuck the damn job.”

Sturton’s jaw stopped. Whenever he had a nightmare, he dreamed that he
was discharged from the department. “What’d yuh _do_?”

“Do?” “Shine” cried. “I’d do anythin’. I’d go an’ make a pitch on Coney
fer the summer.”

“Make a what?”

“Take a front--set up a show--fake ’em, fake ’em! All the suckers ain’t
been stung yet.... An’ if I didn’t have the money fer that, I’d go
boostin’ fer a start. I had fifteen boosters ’n under me onct. Youse
guys that think th’ on’y way to collar the cush is to go sweat fer it,
like niggers--yuh make me tired!”

“Turk” shook his head darkly. “This ’s good enough fer mine.”

“Sure, it is,” “Shine” sneered. “Yuh don’t know any better. Yuh’ve
never _drew_ any better. If yuh’d been with me an’ Goldy Simpson when
we had the front on Tilyou’s Walk, we’d ’a’ showed yuh life--life!” He
polished another apple on his shirt sleeve and sank his teeth in it
savagely. Sturton did not reply. They ate in silence.

“Shine” was bare-footed. He had taken off his shoes to reach the
apples, standing on a stringer that was awash. He drew his knees up to
his chin now, to keep his feet within the narrow cover of the shade,
and he sat like a monkey in a cage, looking over the bulwarks enviously
at the free life on the open river.

When the steamboat _Leo_ of the Coney Island fleet came paddling
down stream towards him, he took her appearance at that moment as
a particular spite of fate. The captain was at a window of the
pilothouse; the first mate was standing over a group of deckmen who
were hauling on the rope that raised a fender; a waiter leaned on the
shutter of a forward gangway, idle. And “Shine” saw his past float by
him, in the sunlight, like a vision.

He watched it biliously. From a port of the forward cabin a thin curl
of smoke was drifting out, and he imagined a contented stoker lolling
on the warm deck within, sucking the reed stem of a corncob pipe. He
remembered a boat that had been set afire by the butt of a cigarette
thrown overboard from an upper deck and carried by the wind, through
that very port, into the ropes and rags and paint-pots of that cabin,
he hoped the smoker in there, now, would start a blaze. He hoped the
old tub would burn before his eyes.

“Gee!” he said. “He must be smokin’ a Dutchman’s pipe.”

When the steamer was abreast of them, Sturton suddenly jumped up.
“That’s afire, ain’t it?”

It was; and “Shine” came to his feet as if he had been lifted by the
yell of derision with which he greeted the fact that it _was_ a fire.
“Hi-yi! _Ca-a-ap!_ Mucka-hi! Ain’t y’ afire forrud?” He waved his arms
and pointed. “Yuh’re smokin’ in the peak!”

Sturton put his hands to his cheeks and bellowed, “Smoke up in front!”

Their voices drew the other firemen from the pierhouse; and while
these men shouted questions and “Shine” bawled replies, a cry was
raised on the _Leo_ and the passengers started a panic across her
decks. Almost immediately, her whistle shrilled the repeated signal of
distress; Captain Keighley ordered “Cast off, boys;” and “Shine” ran,
bare-footed, to his duty.



XVIII


It proved to be a small fire in the excursion boat’s stores, and the
_Hudson_ doused it with a single line of hose. But there was much smoke
and more confusion in the bow of the steamboat; and when the _Hudson_
drew off and left the crew of the _Leo_ to swab down the wet decks,
“Shine” was hidden in the forepeak of the steamer--behind a pile of cut
rails that were used to ballast the nose of the boat--listening to the
noises overhead like a boy playing truant.

No one knew he was there, except his friend Doherty, the ex-fireman,
whom he had found on the lower deck of the _Leo_. “’S all right,
Shorty,” “Shine” whispered. “I been knocked out by the smudge, see?
I fell down the hatch here, an’ was bumped stiff. Make yerself scarce
now, an’ let one o’ those deckers fin’ me. Ill raise a holler in a
minute.”

Doherty retreated unobserved. When all was quiet again on the _Leo_,
the men in the forecastle heard an agonized moaning on the other side
of the forward bulkhead, and came to “Shine’s” aid with oaths of
amazement. They raised him up the ladder and supported him, limping
weakly, aft to the bar. He said in a voice that shook pathetically,
“Have a gargle, boys, on me.” And he said it with such an effect of
unselfish thoughtfulness in pain that it won them all.

When Doherty returned forward, he found “Shine” the centre of a ring
of admiring deckers who were “gargling” around him in all sympathy.
One of them was rubbing his crippled side; another supported him by the
arm. He was wincing heroically. “Come in, Shorty,” he gasped. “What’ll
yuh have?... That’s all to the good, now, boys. I’m all right. Gi’ me
a beer.” He leaned up against the bar and smiled engagingly. “This’s
on me. Say, I pull out sixty-six plunks a month, an’ no more chance to
spend it ’an a savin’s bank. What d’ yuh think o’ that? Give a man the
hottest job in Little ol’ Ne’ York, an’ want to keep him on the dry!
What’s yours?”

They received his delicate witticisms with appreciative guffaws, and he
beamed with the cordiality of his invitations to drink. He was flushed
with the pride of the native who has returned to his old haunts, rich
with the loot of the alien. “This ’s on me,” he kept repeating.
“What’ll yuh have?”

Soda fizzed, beer frothed, whiskey clucked in the neck of the bottle.
The brown hands went over the bar in an eager scramble, and the fat
barkeeper juggled with glasses, bottles, siphons and boxes of cigars
like a stage magician. “Sure.... On the spring line.... Th’ ol’
_Cyrus_.... Have a cigar, then.... This ’s on me.”

Doherty, in the background, listened sourly to the laughter of the
deckmen, until he saw the size of the roll of greenbacks which “Shine”
drew from his trousers’ pocket. Then he took a last hasty gulp of
liquor and stood looking fixedly at the bottom of his empty glass. He
put it down on the bar and elbowed his way to “Shine.”

“Have another, Shorty?”

“Naw. I’ve had enough.” He touched “Shine’s” elbow significantly and
slid his eyes around in a sidewise stealthiness without moving his
head. “Nittsy!” he said, out of the corner of his mouth.

“Shine” finished his glass, shook hands with the circle, and followed
his friend to the gangway. “What’s up?”

Doherty seemed embarrassed. “Well, say,” he explained, under his
breath, “they’re a gang o’ strong-arms. I was a-scared they’d get yuh
loaded an’ shove yuh fer yer wad.”

“Shine” laughed. “I guess there’s no one in that bunch o’ ’bos could
frisk me any.”

Doherty wriggled and grinned. “What’re yuh goin’ to do?”

“Me?” “Shine” leaned on the shutter of the gangway and spat at the
water. “I’m goin’ to Coney an’ back.”

The smell of the past was sweet in his nostrils--that indescribable
smell of an excursion steamboat’s lower deck--the bilgy smell of
chill dampness, soiled paint and stale humanity. The churning of the
paddle-wheels and the swish of water under the guard filled his ears
with a remembered music. Hatless, coatless and in his bare feet, he
took the sunshine on a guileless smile and watched the shores of Long
Island gliding past in their old familiar way.

If he had not been blinded by the light and by his own generous
emotions, he might have seen something suspicious below the manner
of his former messmate, who peered at nothing with shaded eyes that
shifted cunningly and a smile that came and went. But Doherty talked
in the voice of friendship, and “Shine” listened, without looking,
basking in his own good nature.

They did not refer to the trouble with Captain Keighley. “Shine” felt
himself guilty of having deserted from that quarrel, and avoided the
mention of it. Doherty had long since concluded that the fire-boat
crew did not intend to avenge his injuries; and he was waiting for an
opportunity to make the “quitters” suffer for having failed him.

He explained that after he “quit handlin’ freight” for the
Baltic-American line, he had gone “cappin’ fer a con man that was
workin’ the hucks” on Coney--which is to say, he had been the
confederate in a shell game. He had hoped to start a “graft” of some
sort on the Island himself, but--as he put it plaintively--“a dip went
through me fer all I’d put down, one night when I was paddin’ it in a
doss-house on the Bow’ry.”

“Shine” laughed good-naturedly at this tale of another man’s
misfortunes, as tickled with the sound of his Coney thieves’ slang as
an exiled Highlander who hears his native Scotch.

Doherty licked his lips. “D’ yuh remember Goldy Simpson?”

“Do I?” “Shine” cried. “Me an’ Pikey Moffat--”

“Goldy’s back at Coney.”

“G’ wan! No!”

“Sure. He was up town yesterday lookin’ fer a ballyhoo man.”

“No!” “Shine” laughed immensely.

“By ----, I’d like to see him. I’d like t’ ask him if he remembers the
time me an’ Pikey Moffat--”

“Why don’t yuh?” Doherty cut in. “Yuh c’u’d go back by trolley just as
well as not.”

“Shine” looked doubtfully at his feet.

“Borry a pair o’ kicks an’ a hat in the foc’sle.”

“Shine” hesitated.

“Come on,” Doherty cried. “Let’s blow off up the island together. I’m
lookin’ fer a job boostin’ er ballyhooin’ er somethin’.”

It was the voice of temptation sweetly tuned to “Shine’s” own
inclination. He could, in fact, get back to the fire-boat more quickly
by rail than by water; and even if he did not--if he “stopped over”
long enough to call on “Goldy” and the “gang”--the _Leo_ would carry
back word of his accident in the forepeak, and he could invent more
excuses to explain his further delay.

He said, “Let’s get the boots.” And when the _Leo_ tied up at her
pier on the Coney Island beach, he was helped ashore by Doherty and a
deck-hand who had lent him a hat, a coat and a pair of shoes for two
dollars.



XIX


The Coney Island that they landed on is gone now. It was a shouting
gypsy fair of side shows, beer gardens, dance halls, chowder tents,
shooting galleries and unsavory “joints.” It was not a sweet resort,
but “Shine” walked through it, like an old graduate through the
corridors of his college, fondly reminiscent. He laughed at the
“ballyhoo man” drawing the crowd to a booth with his sword-swallowing
and his fire-eating. He listened appreciatively to the art of a
“spieler” praising a “performance inside;” and he turned to smile on a
“booster” who put a shoulder behind him and gently impelled him towards
the ticket office. He sniffed the odor of steaming frankfurters and
fried crabs. He stood grinning before a merry-go-round that ground out
a deafening cacophany from a German organ. And Doherty, beside him, had
to stand and listen, grin and comment, with a hypocritical pretence of
delight--working his toes secretly in his broken shoes, meanwhile, to
ease the itch of his impatience to get on.

They got on, at last, to a saloon which Doherty had been heading for.
It was a pine “front” with a sign that pictured a beer glass as big
as a pail, marked “My Size! Five Cents!” They went past the bar to
the deserted little drinking room beyond it, and sat down at a table
beside a door which “Shine” did not notice--and Doherty did. The walls
were covered with colored tissue papers, cut and folded in fans and
circles, and with printed invitations to the public not to forget the
“receptions” of some half-dozen “associations.” These were a “Welcome
Home” to “Shine”; and he read them almost sentimentally while Doherty
was gone to speak to the “barkeep” who was a “frien’” of his.

When he came back with two glasses of beer, “Shine” received his glass
with a “Here’s lookin’ at yuh” that was warm. He drank a deep libation,
open-throated, without tasting. He put the glass down and smiled. “Bum
booze,” he said, clucking over a bitterness that burned his tongue.

Doherty kept his snub nose in his “schooner.”

“Shine” looked up at an “invitation” above him, and drank again to
quench a sudden heat in his mouth.

“Say,” he said thickly, “I don’t like this beer.”

“Mine’s all right,” Doherty assured him. “I’ll get y’ another.”

Before he returned, “Shine” had drained the first glass. He took the
second unsteadily, grinning at Doherty to cover the fact that he could
not think of what he had intended to say. He drank thirstily, put down
his glass and blinked. He had become conscious of a great lapse of
time. It seemed to him that he had been silent for an hour.

He began to talk very busily, but without any great success in saying
anything; and to lubricate his difficulty in articulation he drank and
drank. “How’s that?” Doherty asked him, with each successive glass, and
“Shine” assured him--as well as he could--that it was “A’ right a’
right.”

“How’s _that_?” Doherty asked at last, exultingly; and his voice came
to “Shine” as a thin rustle of hoarse sound. The wall seemed to be
bellying like a curtain in a draught. “I’m fu’,” he said, and laughed
tipsily.

The room had begun to swim around him, and he drank again, to steady
it. It revolved faster and faster. He shut his eyes and tried to sit
tight, but could not keep his balance. The motion dizzied him. He
rested his head on the table, feeling very tired and very sleepy;
and he decided that he would remain there until the world around him
returned to a state of rest.

When he woke again, in a semi-stupor--it seemed only a few minutes
later--he felt someone kicking the soles of his bare feet. He was lying
on the floor of a room, stripped to his undershirt and trousers. He
could not see Doherty anywhere. A stranger was saying, “Look-a-here,
‘Shine.’ That partner o’ yours, Doherty, was in to see me this mornin’.
He said yuh wanted a job ballyhooin’. He said yuh’d do me a barefoot
dance fer the price of a pair o’ boots. Is that right?”

He grinned a grin of malice that showed the gold in all his huge teeth;
and “Shine” recognized “Goldy” Simpson.



XX


Goldy Simpson!--proprietor of the “Alhambra of Mystic marvels and
Persian Beauty Show” that had a large and gaudy entrance on one of the
Island’s “avenues” and an inconspicuous exit on a neighboring walk.
Its promises of entertainment were as lavish as the paint on its front
canvas, and its fulfilment of them as shabby as the bleached pine of
its back door. Its whole staff, in fact, was employed in drawing the
public past its ticket office. Once inside the booth, you found nothing
but three scrawny “Persian Beauties” posed on a curtained stage; the
eloquent Simpson rose to make more promises of what was to be seen,
for another payment, still further in, where the police could not
interfere; and the “boosters” led those who paid, down a dark passage,
to the exit--and laughed at them in the street.

It was to this cave of robbers that “Shine” was led--led by the promise
that if he assisted the “show” for the afternoon, he would be paid off
at night with 25 cents for car fare, a pair of old shoes, a cap and
a coat in which to return to town. He had to accept the offer; there
was nothing else to be done; and he was in no condition to think of
anything else even if there had been anything.

They dressed him to represent a Hindoo snake-charmer, in a white
cotton undershirt, baggy chintz trousers, Turkish bath-slippers and
a turban made of several twisted towels. Still half-stupefied by
Doherty’s “knockout drops,” he was shoved out on a platform before the
“Alhambra,” heard muffled voices around him, saw upturned faces below
him in a sort of crowded nightmare, and went out into the sunlight
and came back into the dark, without understanding the orders he
obeyed--dazed and sullen, and all the time groping in the uproar of a
drugged brain for a thought that moved somewhere in the obscurity every
time Doherty’s face flashed across his memory.

He could not recall what had happened. He knew that he had been with
Doherty--but that was all.

When the costumed staff of the “Alhambra” sat down, inside the booth,
to a supper that had been brought in from a neighboring New England
kitchen--to save the necessity of changing clothes and going out to an
eating house--“Shine” found himself with Simpson, Simpson’s wife, who
was the cashier of the ticket office, a boy called “Butts,” who turned
the crank of the mechanical piano, and three flaxen-wigged “Queens of
the Harem” wrapped in faded dressing robes. Frankfurters, sandwiches
and beer had been laid out like a picnic on a trestle-table of rough
boards. In the dim light that filtered through a dirty skylight
overhead, the powdered shoulders of the women were wanly white and
their unpowdered hands were _not_. “Shine” sat humped over his food,
unable to eat.

Several times he looked up with a momentary blink of intelligence,
and then frowned about him in a helpless return of his stupor, his
head aching as if it would split. He put his hand to his forehead and
cleared his throat. He asked, in a husky and uncertain voice: “Where’s
... Doherty?”

Simpson was enjoying the situation. “I guess he’s blowed. I ain’t seen
him since mornin’.”

“What’d he tell yuh?”

“He said yuh was over at Timmin’s lookin’ fer a job.”

“Shine” looked up under his eyebrows with a bloodshot glower. “He
sloughed me fer ev’rythin’ I had on me.”

“I guess you’re right,” Simpson said. “He looked like he had.”

“Shine” put his elbows on the table and rested his head in his
hands. Simpson winked at his wife. The Queens of the Harem smiled
appreciatively, but with care--on account of their “makeup.”

After a long silence, “Shine” said weakly, “I got to get back to the
boat, I’m off without leave. Gi’ me a pair o’ boots an’ le’ me go.”

“Sure thing,” Simpson promised. “There’s a fullah promised he’d be here
t’night. I’ll let yuh go as soon ’s he comes.”

“I got to go now.”

“Long way to walk--in bare hoofs, too. Better work out yer contrac’.”

“Shine” tried to focus a wavering eye on him. “Yuh’re in this with
Doherty,” he said. “Yuh damn double-crosser. Yuh dirty back-capper!”

Simpson replied, with meaning, “D’ yuh mind the time yuh handed me over
to Pikey Moffat? Think about it.” He got up from the table. “Think
about it,” he said as he went out.

His wife brushed the crumbs from the lap of her flowered satin evening
gown, and followed him. The beauties in the bath robes trailed off to
their dressing-room. The boy began to gather up the beer mugs.

He looked commiseratingly at “Shine.” “Wish yuh had _my_ job,” he said.
“I dreamt I was a music box las’ night, an’ they wound me up by the
arm. I got a cramp in ’t this mornin’, an’ he says he’ll dock me ten
cents fer slowin’ down to rub it.”

“Shine” did not speak.

The boy looked after the Queens of the Harem. “Wish I was a woman,” he
said, “an’ didn’t have to do nuthin’ but look picturesquew.”

He sighed. He pinched off the lighted end of his cigarette, put the
butt in his pocket, and went out, grumbling, with the beer mugs.

“Shine” remained hunched over the table, staring at nothing and slowly
gathering venom. When he went out to the platform, he was full of it,
bitter with it, almost indeed sober and clear-headed with it.



XXI


“Ladies an’ gen’leman,” Simpson announced, “I’m from Texas. I’m from
Texas where they valyoo friendship more _than_ money. An’ what I’m
goin’ to tell yuh is between _man an’ man_.” He straightened up with
dignity. “I’m the _pro_-prietor o’ this show. I’m monarch of all I
survey.”

He waved his hand from the display of his wife’s shoulders in the
ticket office to the oil canvases of the Indian nautch girls, the
skeleton man, the “Wizard of the West,” the “Demon Diavolo” eating
fire, and the “Modern Samson” lifting ton weights--to the three Queens
of the Harem, sitting on the platform with “Shine,” under the flare of
a gasoline “torch”--to the curtained door that led into the “Alhambra
of Mystic Marvels and Persian Beauty Show.”

He screamed with a sudden inconsequent passion: “I don’t hire men to
come out here an’ lie to yuh! No! I’m tryin’ to make an hones’ livin’
fer myself an’ the fines’ comp’ny o’ _per_formers that ever appeared
together under one management on Coney Island!” He wiped his forehead.
He lowered his voice. “An’ to tell youse the truth, boys, it’s the
toughest proposition I ever went up against.”

It was a Saturday night, and the Island walks were crowded. “Shine”
was looking down on a throng of white faces and eyes that shone in the
light. They laughed.

“I know!” Simpson cried. “Yuh’ve been faked. Yuh’ve been payin’ good
money to see a lot o’ ham-fatters an’ chair-warmers--a lot o’ stiffs
that couldn’t get hired fer a supper-show up in the city. Ain’t that
right?”

One of his “boosters” in the back of the crowd shouted, “That’s what’s
the matter!”

Simpson threw up his hands. “That’s it! That’s it! An’ because I don’t
come out here an’ promise to give yuh more ’n I got, yuh don’t believe
me. An’ I got the bes’ show on the Island, barrin’ an’ exceptin’
_none_! A show that on’y costs one dime to witness--an’ it’s worth a
dollar if it’s worth a cent!”

He made a sign to the platform. “Shine” and the three beauties in
tights and tinsel stood up. One of the latter was chewing gum with a
pensive movement of the under jaw.

“First an’ foremost, let me tell yuh,” he said, “I got Kulder, the
Hindoo snake-charmer, sword-swallower, an’ fire-eater.” He pointed to
“Shine.” “Bein’ a native o’ Calcutter, where he was employed by the
Hindoo fire-department, he was kicked out three years ago by the Durbar
because he wouldn’t turn water on a blaze. No! He wanted t’ eat the
flames!”

The crowd grinned. “Shine” scowled.

Simpson went on: “He’ll drink anythin’ from boiled bay rum to knockout
drops. He’ll walk barefoot from here to the Batt’ry to get a look at a
fire-boat. He’s the simplest an’ sulkiest an’ treacherest damn fool of
a Hindoo that ever put up a game on a partner. An’ he don’t understan’
a word yuh say!”

“Shine” muttered to himself. Simpson launched out into a glowing
description of the Beauties of his Persian Harem. He could not bring
them all out on the platform. The police, he whispered, would not let
him. But excepting the secret palace of the Sultan of Turkey, there was
nothing to equal it on this side of Madagascar! Nuthin’!

As for the canvases overhead, they spoke for themselves. They
represented “truthfully an’ without _ex_-aggeration” a small part of
the mystic marvels to be seen on the inside for the small price of a
dime, ten cents. “A dime! A dime!” he cried. “All free fer a dime!”

The boy struck up a staggering melody on the mechanical piano. “Shine”
and the Beauties retreated through the curtains. The “boosters”
began to shove the crowd in towards the ticket office in a pretence
of eagerness to get good seats for themselves, confiding to their
neighbors that they had heard it was “the goods, all right, inside.”
They paid and passed in; and at least a score of gulls followed them
with more or less doubtfulness.

That was the first “push,” and it was Simpson’s habit to make two
“pushes” before he gave his performance.

While he was inside, waiting for a new audience to gather out in front,
“Shine” accosted him again. “Are yuh goin’ to gi’ me them boots?”

“Sure thing,” he promised airily. “Soon ’s I get good an’ ready.”

“Shine” nodded and went back to his place behind the curtains. Simpson
saw nothing new in the fireman’s manner. He had been taunting “Shine”
all afternoon with platform insults--which “Shine” had endured in
silence because he had not understood them--and Simpson had mistaken
stupor for meekness.

The net was spread for the second “push” in the same manner as for
the first, though in briefer language, for there was now an impatient
roomful inside, listening.

“An’ here,” Simpson cried, “we have the famous Hindoo snake-charmer. A
pure Brahma--look at his feet. This man, ladies an’ gen’lemen, lives on
dope! He wears no socks. Why? Why does he wear no socks? _Be_-cause he
swapped them this mornin’ fer a quart o’ knockout drops! While ’n under
th’ influence o’ that noxious drug, he’ll swally anythin’--live fire,
nails, carpet tacks, jollies er anythin’ else yuh throw into him. He--”

“Are yuh goin’ to gi’ me them boots?” “Shine” growled.

The crowd heard him and drew in closer, scenting trouble. Simpson heard
him and veered off. “An’ next we have three ladies from th’ Imperial
Harem o’ Madagascar--”

“Are yuh goin’ to gi’ me them boots?”

Simpson raised his voice to drown the laughter. “Three o’ the faires’
flowers in Eastern womanhood! On th’ inside we have no less ’n
twenty-seven--”

“He’s a liar!” “Shine” shouted to the crowd. “He’s a liar. He’s got
nuthin’ at all inside. He’s a liar an’ a fakir. He promised me a pair
o’ boots! He’s a liar an’ a fakir! He’s--”

Simpson leaped on him. The three frightened Beauties jumped screaming
into the arms of the crowd. In another minute the whole front of the
“Alhambra” was shaking with the uproar of a riot.

[Illustration: _The blaze, caught at close range, seemed to snuff out_

See page 90]

“Shine” was a Bowery fighter. He turned in Simpson’s clutch and threw
him, and while the “boosters” were forcing their way to the platform
to aid their employer, he pounded Simpson in a fury. It was impossible
to separate him from his struggling victim, so they dragged him from
the platform, and Simpson with him; and then some of the roughs in the
crowd raised a cry of “Fair fight there! Fair fight!” and attacked the
boosters. In the midst of it a gang of Coney thieves made a raid on
the ticket office, and Mrs. Simpson’s wild yells rose above the tumult
in a shrill appeal for help.

There followed a free fight and a general scramble for the gate
receipts.

It lasted until the policeman on that beat called out the reserves to
clear the street; and when these turned their attention to the cause of
the disorder, a solitary gasoline torch, above the ballyhoo platform,
shone on the deserted wreck of the “Alhambra” front. The boosters had
made their escape by the back way. “Butts” had deserted his piano, and
was sitting in the New England Kitchen greedily inhaling the smoke of
a cigarette. The Beauties of the Harem were whispering together in
their dressing-room; and one of them had an air of inward apprehension
natural to a young woman who had swallowed her chewing gum.

Mrs. Simpson was in the back room, bathing her husband’s face. “Shine,”
alone in the Hall of Mystic Marvels, dressed in his own trousers and
a coat and cap that belonged to “Butts,” received the police with a
battered grin.

“’S all right,” he said. “A gang o’ strong arms tried to rush the
ticket office. I guess they got away with ev’rythin’ but this.” He
showed a torn five-dollar bill. “The boss’s in the back.”

He pointed the way to them. When they came out again, with another
version of the trouble, he had disappeared.



XXII


Late that night he returned to the pierhouse of the _Hudson_ limping,
with his arm in a sling, his face bruised and an eye blackened. “Turk”
Sturton, whose watch it was, received him without sympathy. “Cap’n
wants to see yuh,” he said sternly. “Where’ve yuh been?”

“Shine’s” face expressed all the bitterness of a soul that had found no
relief in its curses. “Wait!” he said. “Jus’ _you_ wait!”

He went into Keighley’s office. The captain put aside a newspaper that
he had been reading, and looked him over. “Well?”

“Shine” moistened his lips and began his explanations. They were
guiltily ingenious. He had fallen down a hatch in the _Leo_ and had
lain unconscious until the steamer was half way to Coney. Then some
deckmen in the forecastle had heard him groaning and had come to his
rescue. He had been badly shaken up but not seriously hurt, and he had
decided to hurry back to the _Hudson_ by trolley instead of waiting for
the _Leo_ to make her return trip. He borrowed some clothes and went
ashore, but as he was hastening up one of the board walks towards the
street-car line, he was stopped by a number of men who were disputing
about a cane which one of them had “ringed with one o’ them rings that
yuh toss at canes in a ‘Cane-yuh-ring-is-the-cane-yuh-get’ graft.” And
they had demanded that he decide whether the cane had been “ringed” or
not. The ring was resting on the knob of the cane, being too small to
fall down over it. It was a “faked-up” dispute. They were a “gang o’
strong arms,” and when they got him in among them, they started to “go
through” him. He put up a fight. They “got all over” him, knocked him
down, gave him a black eye, and took his money. He had had to walk back
from Coney. He--

“That’ll do,” Keighley cut in. “Take that sling off yer arm. Yuh can’t
come any spiels like that on me.”

“S’welp me, cap, I--”

“Cut it out, now, I tell yuh. Yuh’ve been drunk. Yuh’ve been off duty
ten hours without leave. Yuh’ve either got to gi’ me a straight story
er walk the carpet at Headquarters.”

“Shine” swallowed and looked down at his feet. He was calculating that
Acting-Chief Moran would be lenient with a “Jigger.”

“Yuh’ve been havin’ things pretty much yer own way around here,”
Keighley said. “This’s where yuh take a drop. The Commissioner’s out,
see? He quit this afternoon. Youse fullahs ’er goin’ to do what _I_ say
after this. If yuh go up to Headquarters, yuh don’t come back. Moran
won’t save yuh. He’s got all he can do to save his own neck, now.”

“Shine” looked at the captain, and recognized that his game was up.
“’Twasn’t my fault,” he said. “It was Doherty’s.”

“Doherty! What’d Doherty have to do with it?”

“The damn dip! He done me up,” he said--and plunged into an incoherent
and many-cursed account of what had happened.

Keighley heard him in silence. When Doherty’s part in the affair was
made plain, the captain “sized up” the situation with the frown of a
chess-player studying the board, and said “Ummm” as he saw his play.
“Shine” finished, humble and submissive. Keighley said, “Go to yer
bunk.”

It is the tradition of the department that a captain shall enforce
discipline in his company without sending his men to Headquarters
on every trifling charge that he has against them. Keighley watched
“Shine” out, snorted contemptously through his nose, reached for the
newspaper again, and returned to the column that reported the Fire
Commissioner’s resignation. He had “Shine” where he “wanted” him, as
he would have said. And he had his whole company in the hollow of his
hand.

“Shine” knew it. The “Jiggers” knew it. “It’ll be off to the
goose-pastures fer ours all right,” Cripps said, discussing the
situation with “Shine.” “The chief’ll get back, now, an’ if he don’t
find a way to break us, he’ll ship us off to the Bronx. I don’t care a
damn anyway,” he added in feeble defiance.

“Ner me!” “Shine” clenched his hand. “I’m lookin’ fer Doherty. If they
kick me out o’ the department, I’ll find him all the quicker. An’ I
want youse fullahs to keep yer eyes skinned fer him. Jus’ tell me where
he’s workin’. That’s all! I’ll do the rest.”

Cripps swore plaintively. “After us fightin’ ol’ Clinkers fer him,
too.”

“An’ fer the rest o’ them,” “Shine” cried. “They’ve played us fer
suckers--Moran an’ the whole dirty gang. They’ve used us. An now when
they’re afraid o’ fallin’ down, they’ll chuck us. That’s all we’ll get
out o’ the ‘Jigger’ bus’ness. Yuh’ll see.” He wiped his mouth with the
back of his hand; he was almost “drooling” with disgust and bitterness.
“Never mind. If I ever get ahold o’ Doherty!” he promised himself.

There is nothing persists among these men as an enmity does. A man who
has been wronged sees the scar of the injury as a mark of inferiority
on him, and his pride in himself is never satisfied until he has been
able to “get even,” until he has proved himself the equal of his enemy
by returning the hurt in kind. “Shine” could not even consider his
case in solitude without suffering. When he was among companions, he
could not think of Doherty without breaking out in new threats of
vengeance, as if he would give a sort of promissory note against his
debt of hatred. He asked everywhere for news of Doherty. His first day
off he spent in searching Coney, with his hands clenched ready in his
pockets. When he heard that Doherty had been seen about the docks,
he spent hours at the pierhouse windows watching the river traffic,
and took his weekly holiday lounging about the water-front with the
instinctive patience of a beast of prey. By the time a month had
passed, the desire of revenge had become a sort of subconscious habit
that affected his actions without disturbing his thought. He went about
his work as of old, but silently, as self-contained as a man with a
great ambition. He knew that if he could wait long enough he could get
his man. He was prepared to wait a lifetime.

Then, one day, two things happened: Chief Borden came back to his place
in the department and “Shine” heard that Doherty had been seen working
as a freight-handler again on the Baltic-American wharves. At meal
hour “Shine” did not go to his dinner; he hurried home to change his
uniform, and posted off to the Baltic-American sheds--and he was denied
an entrance by the wharf watchman. Since the fire on the _Sachsen_ the
rule had been strictly enforced that no stranger should be admitted
to the company’s piers without a card from the office. “Shine” did
not care to show the metal fire-badge on his suspender; it was not a
case for an official appearance. He returned to the _Hudson_ hungry
but full of hope. He could wait for his day off, waylay Doherty as the
longshoremen left their work in the evening, and mark him for all time.

As it turned out, he did not have to wait for his day off. He waited
only two days. On the third day the impossible happened.

An alarm of fire was rung in from the Baltic-American piers.

It found Chief Borden closeted with Captain Keighley when the call
came. Under the eye of the head of the department, the crew took their
places with an easy alertness and no confusion. The chief followed them
aboard; the lines were cast off; Keighley nodded an order to the pilot;
and the boat drew out into the stream with as little show of haste as
a fast express pulling out from a railway platform on the tick of the
appointed second.

The sullen glow of a sunset was smoldering dully over the Jersey
shore; and New York was piled up to face it, a Gibraltar of brick
and stone, twinkling with its lighted windows and gay with the blown
plumes of steam from its roofs. A stiff breeze from the north drove the
waves against the bow of the _Hudson_ and hummed in the guys of her
funnel. Keighley and the Chief, facing the bow with their backs to the
wheelhouse, their chins sunken in their collars, were bent against the
rush of air like a pair of old and deaf cronies, their hands behind
them, their heads together as they talked.

“It was about a man named Doherty,” Keighley was explaining
reluctantly. “_You_ remember him, I guess. Some o’ the men didn’t like
it when I got him broke. An’ they made a little trouble fer me--off an’
on.”

“He was a ‘Jigger,’ wasn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“How about that fire on the _Sachsen_? Didn’t Doherty figure in that?”

“Well, I saw him there. He was doin’ ’longshore-work on her. He
might’ve been in it. I don’t know.”

“Didn’t they stack the deal on you there?”

“I think they did. I don’t know. They got foolin’ with a pierhouse
blaze while I was down in her hold.... I tell yuh how it is, chief:
it’s all over. They’re attendin’ to bus’ness. Yuh needn’t be a-scared
of any of ’em in this comp’ny.”

Keighley’s tone was apologetic and conciliatory. It seemed traitorously
so to the chief. “A-scared be damned!” he said. “I got to make _them_
a-scared of _me._ Who was at the head of the game here? Moore?”

Keighley answered, “The man that was at the head of it--he’s lef’ the
comp’ny.”

The chief darted a black look at Keighley under the peak of his cap.
“No one’s left this boat since that fire. I looked her up.”

“No,” Keighley admitted, unabashed. “But he’s left off makin trouble.”

“Now listen to me, Dan,” Borden broke out. “I’ve come back to the
department and I’m counting up my friends. Those that ain’t with me are
against me. That’s the way I look at it.... You know as well as I do
that if I don’t pound these men, they’ll think I’m afraid of them--and
they’ll get to work and knife me.”

“Well--that’s true, too,” Keighley reflected. He glanced up at the
Jersey shore and down at the deck again. “I wish yuh’d leave them be,
though, chief. I got the best crew in the department, now.”

The chief shook his head. “They didn’t leave _me_ be. I can’t let up on
_them._ You know what they’d think.”

“Well,” Keighley said, looking out over the river, “I’ll tell yuh. The
man that was at the head of it--” He blinked the water from his eyes
and peered into the wind--“in this crew--” He raised his arm slowly and
pointed. “What’s that?”

Through the traffic of ferries, car-floats and lighters that crowded
the shore, he could see a big freighter drifting down the piers with a
flotilla of tugs about her. “What’s the matter? Is she afire?”

The chief watched her. “Looks like it, don’t she?”

There was no answer. He turned to see that Keighley had left him; and
he followed back to the wheelhouse, where he found the captain standing
at the pilot’s elbow with the glasses at his eyes.

“It’s a Baltic-American boat, all right--the _Hessen_,” Keighley said.
“No fire ashore. They pulled her out of her dock, I guess. I don’t see
much smoke on her. Lay us alongside, Tom.”

And the chief, mentally putting aside his feud with the “Jiggers”
for the time, said: “They’re keeping it under hatches. Gi’ me the
glasses.... It’s in one of her after holds.”



XXIII


The _Hessen_ had been loading with a miscellaneous cargo that included
everything from cotton to baby carriages and wild animals. She had
seven cargo holds, each four decks deep; and when a smell of smoke
was discovered in the depths of her fifth hold, the wild animals were
already stored on the ’tween decks of that hold, with the baggage and
the bunks for the keepers on the decks below. To save the animals from
being smothered in the smoke, the hatch of the second deck had been
covered with double tarpaulins; live steam had been turned in on the
smolder; an alarm of fire had been sent out for the fire-boat; and the
captain had whistled for tugs to tow him out from the pier--for the
fire that had spread from the _Sachsen_ to the wharves had taught the
officers of the line to isolate their burning boats.

When Keighley and his men came up their ladders to the main deck,
the first officer of the _Hessen_ received them with a hurried
explanation of the situation, the frightened animals roaring a chorus
in accompaniment from below.

“Can’t you hoist out the cages and let us open up?” the chief asked,
when he arrived.

“No place to hoist them to,” Keighley said, “unless we put back to the
pier.”

“Well, if we only cut a hole in the hatch and pump her hold full of
water, you’ll lose all the cargo in the bottom, won’t you?”

The first officer stroked his brown, German beard. “T’e beasts ... are
... more costly.”

“There’s three barb’ry lions, he says,” Keighley explained rapidly,
“an’ two trucks o’ nine trained leopards, an’ some big gorillas an’
half a circus goin’ back to Hagen--what’s-his-name, in Hamburg. We’ll
have to flood her down without openin’ up. Smoke chokes them brutes off
like kittens.”

They stood beside the open hatch, in the fading light, and looked down
into the dark cargo room. They could see faintly the ends of the box
cages in which the animals were penned; and they could hear, _not_
faintly, the uproar of a panic-stricken menagerie frenzied by the smell
of fire. They could not see the deck below, though the hatch that led
to it was open. Keighley sniffed. “It’s sackin’.” He turned to his
men. “Get yer axes. Bring yer lamps. Couple up the six-inch line.”

They turned back to the bulwarks, shoving aside the sailors. There was
the noise of a scuffle, the cry of an angry oath--and a man ran across
the deck and dodged behind the steam-winch that stood beside the hatch.
He was pursued by a helmeted fireman who came cursing.

“Here!” Keighley caught the fireman by the shoulder as he passed.
“What’re yuh doin’.”

It was “Shine.” He cried, “That’s Doherty. That’s the damn bug
that--Nab ’m, Turk.” He struggled to get free of Keighley’s grip,
swearing like a street gamin. “Yuh double-crosser!” he yelled at
Doherty. “Yuh dirty back-capper! Let me at ’m.”

Keighley turned to Lieutenant Moore. “Bring that man here,” he said.

But Doherty did not wait to be surrounded. He leaped to the open hatch,
caught the rung of the iron ladder and swung down into the hold.

“What’s he doing here?” the chief asked.

“He was loadin’,” someone answered.

“Haul him up out o’ that,” Keighley ordered.

“Shine” broke for the hatchway, with two of the men at his heels.
He was half way down the ladder when Doherty’s voice from below
threatened: “The first man ’at comes down here, I’ll let the cats loose
on him.”

“Go on,” Keighley said grimly. “Bring ’m up. We don’t want any more
_Sachsen_ games played on us here.”

They went. But they did not go far. “Shine” had no more than jumped
down among the cages when a shrill squealing rose in the hatch. A
yell from “Shine” topped it with a startling note of fright; and up
the ladder, over the men on the rungs, there came a swarm of monkeys,
biting and fighting like rats as the men tried to beat them off, and
clinging to arms and legs, shrieking and chattering, when the men,
retreating, began to clamber up. They poured out, gibbering, on the
deck and put the crew to flight. Then they scattered in all directions,
up the derrick to the top-tackle, and up the house-work to the higher
decks. And when “Shine” came up the ladder, with the last little
marmoset hugging his neck, the main deck was empty, the men were
laughing shamefacedly on the bulwarks, and Keighley was bellowing down
to the _Hudson_ for two lines of small hose.

“All right,” he said. “We’ll queer that game.”

“Leave him alone,” the chief ordered. “Look after that fire.”

“That’s what we did on the _Sachsen_,” Keighley replied, “an’ we ended
up in a hole.” He added, in a swift aside: “All right, chief. I want
to show yuh somethin’. That’s Doherty--the man the ‘Jiggers’ tried to
knife me fer. I’m goin’ to send after ’m the four jiggers that’s left
in the crew. I want yuh to see fer yerself about how much o’ the Jigger
bus’ness there _is_ in my comp’ny. I’ll take the other men down after
the fire.”

The chief considered a moment, and let his silence give consent.
Keighley pushed back his helmet from his forehead and turned to his
men, his lips shut tight on a smile.

“Here, Moore,” he called to his lieutenant, “I’ll look after the fire
down there. I want _you_ to take charge o’ that fullah Doherty an’ see
he don’t put up any games on us when we’re ’n under. Here you,” he
called to “Shine”, “an’ you,” to Cripps, “an’ you,” to another Jigger,
“go with the loot’nt. Better take a line er two, in case he lets any
more monkeys out on yuh. Get a move on now. Take yer lamps. Come on,
men. Hurry up with that six-inch line.”

The firemen carried their hose over to the hatch. When the lines were
coupled and stretched in, “Shine” said to Moore, “Le’ me go ahead, will
yuh?”

Moore understood that he was eager to wipe out the disgrace of his
first retreat. “Go on,” he said.

“Shine” slung the lantern over his arm, took the pipe across his
shoulder, and started down.

He was in the middle of the ladder when Doherty called out to him, from
the roaring darkness of the ’tween deck: “Go on down below an’ atten’
to yer fire, now. If any o’ youse tries to come in on this deck, I’ll
turn the whole damn circus loose.”

“Shine” did not reply. He swung in to the deck and held up his lantern.
Two big gorillas were watching from separate cages on either side of
him, their teeth shining under curled lips, glaring at the light. He
put down his lantern and pointed the nozzle like a gun.

Doherty threatened, “Here goes!”

“Tell ’em to start the water,” “Shine” cried to Cripps who was behind
him. He heard Doherty knocking the pin out of a cage door, and he
backed into the ladder.

“Sick ’em,” Doherty yelled; and “Shine” knew, by the direction from
which the voice came, that Doherty was safe on top of a cage.

Then, down the passageway between the cages--in the dim halo that
lay outside the ring of light from the lantern--“Shine” saw a pair
of flaming eyeballs approaching him. He clutched the empty nozzle.
A black leopard crept up and crouched at the edge of the light, its
tail beating on the deck. Behind it he saw another. A third sneaked in
beside them.

“Start yer water!” he called huskily.

Doherty yelled, “Sick ’em!”

The leopards snarled. The nozzle shook in “Shine’s” hands. His jaw had
stuck, open-mouthed. He could not keep his eyes focused, and he blinked
desperately, going “blind” with fear. “Wa-a--”

The hose stiffened; the nozzle kicked up. With a cry between a shout
and a groan, he turned the shut-off valve and let loose a full stream
that struck the deck in front of the leopards and scattered them as
if it had been boiling water. He yelled, “Wh-rr-ah! Damn yuh! Cripps!
Crippsey!”--and slashed the water into the huddled gorillas and stamped
beside the lamp, bent double, like an Indian in a fire dance, whooping.

A terrific uproar broke loose among the animals. “Shine” tugged on the
hose and dragged it in, drenching everything, cursing gloriously.
“Come out o’ that!” he yelled. “Yuh sneak thief!”

Suddenly the electric lights were switched on from the engine room, and
the place blazed up with incandescent lamps. The other Jiggers of the
squad joined him, carrying a second line. He staggered ahead with his
nozzle and turned the corner of a cage to see Doherty flinging open a
barred door to let loose a Barbary lion. As it jumped down, “Shine”
caught it behind with the water; and the powerful stream turned it
over, rolling on the deck. It scampered off with its tail between its
legs, like a wet pup.

“Wah!” he screamed, and took Doherty through the empty monkey cage with
a split spray that soaked him.

Doherty ducked and ran. “There he goes,” “Shine” shouted. “Keep ’m off
the ladder.”

That deck of the fifth hold was a room about forty feet wide and thirty
feet long; but the hatch in the center of it was at least twelve feet
square, so that the deck was little more than a gallery, as deep as a
stall, running around the open hatchway. As “Shine” drove Doherty and
the animals ahead, they had to circle around the hatch to approach the
ladder from the other side; and there Moore and the fourth man had
already turned the hose on some of the frightened leopards--of which
Doherty had released five--and driven them back on him. And Doherty,
finding himself between the two attacks, penned in with the animals
that retreated on him, ran to a corner where there were several cages
of polar bears, threw open the doors of these, prodded the bears out
with a pole, and hid himself on top of the farthest cage.

Lions and leopards would run from water. Polar bears, he knew, would
not.

If “Shine” did not know, it was not long before he learned. He and
Cripps had come as far as their hose would allow them when the first
of the big white beasts, attracted by the splash of water, came
shouldering along the passageway with its mouth open, panting. “Shine”
raised a vainglorious whoop and put the hose on it. It rose on its hind
legs to take the water, and it went over on its back in a deliciously
cool bath, pawing at the stream that struck it rather too heavily for
play. It rolled over, fighting, and came to all fours with a growl. The
water struck into its eyes and into its open jaws; it dodged blindly,
biting less playfully; it began to wrestle and roll about, fighting in
on the stream.

“Gee!” he cried. “This is a garden hose to that brute. Here’s another!”

He caught the second as it came, and toppled it over on the first. It
joined in the game. While he held one back, the other ran in under the
stream, and together they gained ground on him. When the third suddenly
loped up and presented its great bulk to the bath, he began to shout
for a bigger line, retreating as the bears worked in on him. He was
glancing back over his shoulder anxiously for aid, when he saw a lion
crouching in the passage behind him, dripping wet, but of a ferocious
aspect. He lost his voice. He swung his pipe, gasping, at the newcomer
and drove it back. He turned on the bears again and caught them as
they came in a body. He stopped two of them, but he missed the third,
and it rose with an angry growl seemingly right over him and he dropped
his pipe and fled with a yell.

At that moment a strong stream, from the deck above, came slantingly
down through the hatch and checked the bear as it pursued him.



XXIV


During all this time, Chief Borden had been at the coaming of the open
hatchway, watching the “Jiggers” from the main deck; and, when the
electric lights had been turned on in the hold, he had been able to
enjoy “Shine’s” combat with the wild animals, from a gallery seat. At
first he had been merely an indifferent spectator, much preoccupied
with affairs of state in the department; but when he saw the lion
driven back among the cages like a doused cat, the shouts of laughter
from the men around him set him smiling under his grey mustache. These
men, under Keighley, were lowering the big line down into the hold to
attack the fire; and they amused themselves by shouting encouragement
to “Shine” as if they were following a bull fight. The situation was
the funnier because “Shine” was unable to hear them--on account of the
uproar around him--and unable to see them because he was in the light
and they in darkness; and he whooped and danced about with his nozzle,
unconscious that he was playing the clown for their amusement. “Give it
to ’em,” they called. “Kick ’em in the slats. Ho-ho! This ’s more fun
’an a circus!”

The chief--naturally a jovial man, with a bluff military
manner--enjoyed it as much as anybody. But when the bear appeared, they
all saw danger in the joke. “Here,” the chief cried. “He’ll never hold
that brute. Get a bigger line down to him. There comes another. They’ll
eat him up.”

Keighley and his men ran back to bring up a three-inch line, and the
chief remained laughing at the duel between “Shine” and the bears. He
shouted, “Back out, you fool!”

Moore and the fireman with him, who were just below where the chief
stood, heard the order and obeyed it. By so doing they left “Shine”
unprotected from an attack in the rear. When the third bear appeared,
the excitement became frantic; and the whole company, from the chief
down, pulled on the incoming hose and shouted and laughed together.

The chief, at the nozzle, was the first to see the lion creeping around
the hatch. “Stop him!” he cried, to nobody in particular. “Damn it
all! Behind you, man,” he yelled to “Shine.” “Look behind you!”

“Shine” could not hear him. The chief took off his cap and threw it
down at the animal, vainly. He dropped on his hands and knees beside
the hatch, clutching the nozzle of the three-inch line, bellowing
hoarsely for water, half-choked with laughter. When “Shine” caught
sight of the lion and turned from the bears to drive it back, the chief
saw the bears closing in, and he hammered on the iron coaming of the
hatch with the nozzle, in an inarticulate excitement. And then he got
water just as “Shine” dropped his pipe and ran; and he struggled with
his kicking nozzle, the tears of laughter running down his cheeks,
unable to see the bears whom he was trying to take in the flank with
his stream so as to hold them until “Shine” could make good his
retreat.

Keighley had been working his men like an old slave-driver, glancing
back at the chief, every now and then, with a sly, dry smile. Now he
caught Borden’s pipe and steadied it. “All right, chief,” he said.
“He’s out. Here he comes.”

“Shine” climbed, panting, up the ladder. “Hold those brutes off us
now,” Keighley ordered. “We got to get down to that fire. Here ‘Shine’!
You an’ Cripps take this pipe an’ keep those cats away from the hatch.”

“Shine” came to the chief’s pipe, grinning at the remarks of the men.

“You’re as good as a circus,” Borden said, wiping his eyes.

“They scared the tripe out o’ me.”

[Illustration: _Keighley turned to his pipe. “I’m responsible for this
boat”_

See page 124]

The chief gave place to him. Keighley ordered: “Down yuh go, now.”

Cripps and “Shine,” at one angle of the hatch, and Moore and his
pipeman, diagonally opposite, commanded the deck below with two solid
streams that drove the animals into shelter among the cages, while
Keighley and his squad, with axes and ladder straps, went down to
fasten their six-inch line and cut an opening for the pipe in the
hatch. The smoke blew up in a thick belch as the men stripped off the
tarpaulin. “That’ll keep Mr. Bear busy,” the chief said.

“Mr. Doherty, too,” “Shine” volunteered.

The chief looked at him. “Who’s this Doherty anyway?”

“Shine” kept his eyes on the pipe. “He’s the mut that got us all in
trouble the time o’ the fire on that other Dutch boat.”

“I thought the ‘Jiggers’ were at the bottom of that,” the chief said,
with a pretended innocence.

“They blamed it on us. They blamed ev’rythin’ on us--because some o’
the fat heads higher up used th’ association in their damn con games.”

The chief scowled at this reference to the conspiracy that had ousted
him. “You’re a ‘Jigger,’ are you?”

“That’s what I am,” “Shine” admitted, with bravado. “I’m a ‘Jigger’ all
right, but I ain’t a back-sticker, any more’n half the other fullahs
I know--an’ they didn’t ask us before they put up their deal with the
Commissioner, if yuh want to know.”

The chief’s dignity would not let him discuss such matters with a
man in the ranks. He said, “Shut off your nozzles there, now. You’re
putting too much water on that deck”--and walked away without further
remark.

“Shine” said, under his voice, to Cripps: “That’ll hold _him_ fer a
while.”

Cripps replied, with a convincing oath, “It’s true, too.”

A hole had been cut in the hatch below, and a denser smoke rose from
it. There was nothing to do now but wait for the six-inch line to drown
out the smolder; and Cripps and “Shine” waited, standing with their
pipe.

“Watch that ladder,” “Shine” whispered. “Doherty’ll be tryin’ to make
his sneak while its thick up here.”

A moment later, he yelled suddenly: “Yah!” And dropping his pipe, he
ran to fling himself on Doherty as the ex-fireman leaped out of the
smoke. They rolled together on the deck.

“Hold that man,” the chief ordered, as the crew tore the fighting
“Shine” from his enemy. They lifted Doherty to his feet and backed him
against the winch. “The police’ll want him for interfering with firemen
in the discharge of their duties.” He turned to the four “Jiggers.” “I
want you men to appear in court against him, understand?... That’ll do
_you_,” he said to “Shine.” “Go back to your place.”

“Shine” went back to his place, licking his lips, with a venomous grin.

The rest of the fire was merely an affair of “standing fast” while the
six-inch line flooded the hold; and in half an hour “the job” was
done. The German first officer and his men took charge of Doherty and
agreed to turn him over to the police as soon as their boat tied up to
the pier; and to them was left the work, too, of returning the wild
animals to their cages. The firemen were free to pick up their lines
and return to the _Hudson_, chaffing “Shine.”

“That’s all right,” he swaggered. “I’m a li’n-tamer, all right, all
right.”

“Yuh’re not much on polar bears,” they told him.

He retorted delicately, “Yuh can’t train a brute that’s got no sense.
Polar bears are like youse guys. They’re holler in the cocoa.”

“It was _you_ that did the hollerin’.”

“I was callin’ you fullahs on. I seen yuh was a-scared to come.”

“The hell yuh say! Conlin in the lion’s den. Y’ought to set up a show
down on Coney.”

“Shine” winced at that thrust. “Never mind,” he said, with a curse. “I
done fer Doherty!”

Cripps drew him aside. “Are yuh goin’ t’ appear against Doherty?”

“Well, _am_ I!” he cried. “Watch me! I wish t’ell it was a murder case,
that’s all! An’ if you an’ Moore won’t stan’ by me, yuh can go--”

“That’s all right,” Cripps put in hastily. “We’ll stan’ by yuh,
‘Shine’.”

“Yuh _better_!” “Shine” said.

The other men kept discreetly silent, and the boat turned back for the
run down the river.



XXV


“Well,” the chief said to Keighley, when they were alone again in the
bows, “I guess your company’s all right, Dan. If those four men go into
court against Doherty, it lets me out. I’ve got no kick coming.” He
smiled a satisfied slow smile. “Their association isn’t as strong as it
was, eh?”

Keighley passed a worried hand over his forehead. “Chief,” he said,
“I’ve had a good deal o’ trouble in the las’ two months, an’ I’ve
been doin’ a lot o’ thinkin’. An I want to tell yuh this: Here’s this
fire department as clean as anyone’d want it, an’ here’s ev’ry other
department in this town, between you an’ me, gettin’ rotten with graft.
Why don’t politics get a hold on us.” He leaned forward poking out his
forefinger. “’Cause politics can’t put out a fire, an’ a fire, when it
starts, has _got_ to be put out, er the whole damn town goes up. Yuh
can’t fool with a fire.”

“Well?” the chief said.

“Well,” Keighley went on, “that’s where the ‘Jiggers’ fell down. An’ if
_you’ve_ come back to the department to pound ‘Jiggers’ an’ knife the
men ’at knifed you, that’s where _you’ll_ fall down. Don’t get on yer
ear, now. If this ain’t true, yuh needn’t mind it. An’ if it _is_ true,
yuh can’t change it by gettin’ sore on me.”

“Go ahead,” the chief said. “Get it out of your system.”

Keighley nodded. “These ‘Jiggers’ here tried to stick me, instead of
attendin’ to their bus’ness--an’ they pretty near curled up their toes
in the bottom o’ the _Sachsen_. Moran tried to stick me at that lumber
yard blaze, an’ if it hadn’t been fer the way m’ own men stood by me
he’d’ve been burned out of his job. I attended to my work an’ treated
‘Jigger’ an’ anti-‘Jigger’ the same. An’ with Moran an the Commissioner
an’ the whole bunch tryin’ to trip me up, here I am still. There’s
somethin’ in it, I tell yuh. There’s somethin’ in it.”

The chief tugged at his mustache.

“There’s the police,” Keighley went on. “They’re rotten--’cause
they’re playin’ politics. Here’s the firemen--the same breed as the
policemen--an’ yuh never hear a word against ’em. Why? ’Cause our
work’s too hot fer a grafter--an’ too hot fer a politician--an’ too
hot fer a ‘Jigger,’ unless he’s a fireman first an’ a ‘Jigger’ after.
You put back the men that Moran shifted, an’ let it go at that. If yuh
do more, yuh’ll do worse. An’ yuh’ll end up in a hole. That’s _my_
opinion.”

The chief said, “Moran’s going to get out. There’ll be a promotion from
the battalion-chiefs. Do you want to quit here an’ go on up?”

“D’ yuh mean do I want a battalion?”

“Yes.”

Keighley shook his head. “Not on yer life.”

“Why not?”

He looked out at the pierhouse, which they were approaching. “I like
what I got. I been three months gettin’ things into shape here. It’s a
good crew. It’s a hell of a good boat.”

“You’ll have a softer thing in the other.”

Keighley smiled crookedly. “Too much desk work. I ain’t happy unless I
got a fire in front o’ me. When I want somethin’ softer, I’ll take my
half pay an’ quit.”

“All right.” Borden stretched out his hand. “I hope that won’t be for a
good many years yet, Dan. Good-bye.”

Keighley fumbled over the proffered hand. He was not used to the
amenities. “Good-bye. I hope this’ll end the ‘Jigger’ bus’ness.”

The chief nodded. They shook hands solemnly. “I think it will.”

       *       *       *       *       *

And it did. Deputy-Chief Moran remained in his position; and through
him it was announced to the “Jiggers” that a general amnesty had been
declared, and that no “Jigger-jumper” would be punished for belonging
to his “benevolent association” unless he tried to use his membership
to intrigue for promotion, or allowed himself to be so used. That
policy was in the end so successful that the “Jiggers” lost even their
distinctive name; and the term “Jigger-jumper” is applied now, in
department slang, to all “blue-shirts” who run at the call of that
peremptory little bell to risk their lives and do their duty.

Ask them! Ask any of Keighley’s men. Ask “Shine.” “We’re all
Jigger-jumpers,” he will tell you. “An’ it keeps us on the jump.
_On the jump!_ You bet.... There it goes again.... That’s in
our--Seeyullater!” Then--as _he_ hurries from the sitting room to the
pier--you will see “Old Clinkers” issue from the office, with his coat
on his arm, glance at the clock, flick you one keen look from a cold
grey eye as he goes by, and clear his throat to call from the doorway,
with all the confidence of unquestioned command, “All right, boys. Let
her go!”


THE END



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Text in italics is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

  Archaic spelling that may have been in use at the time of publication
    has been retained.





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
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+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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